As a society, we have a complicated relationship with alcohol. On one hand, drinking it is an accepted social ritual, and it’s easily and legally available for purchase nearly anywhere. On the other hand, it is a highly addictive drug that can ravage the body with long term abuse. Most people can drink in moderation and not see their health suffer from the occasional drink. Unfortunately, others succumb to alcoholism and let it become a dominating part of their everyday life. This can lead to fractured relationships, financial ruin, loss of freedom, automobile accidents, and even death. It’s important to understand the harmful effects alcohol has on the mind and body of chronic users. This may help lead them to seek help and overcome their addiction.
Moderate social drinkers tout the “buzz” alcohol gives them to help them loosen up. Chronic drinkers take this to the extreme by overindulging, leading to substantial degrees of mental impairment. On a short-term basis, they may find it difficult to speak properly, and reaction time may be slowed. This is why drunk driving is so dangerous. Over the years and decades, however, alcoholics kill a large number of brain cells, and this can lead to dementia from alcohol abuse.
While not as serious as brain damage, dehydration makes it difficult for your body to function properly. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases your need to urinate. If you do not replenish with water before, during, and after drinking, it will dry you out, making you feel sluggish, possibly causing a sore throat and dry mouth, and feelings of nausea. This is the chief cause of hangovers when people wake up after a night of heavy drinking. In extreme cases, dehydration can cause hospitalization.
In addition to stimulating urine, alcohol puts a great deal of pressure on your kidneys and liver to process it. Over time, binge drinking can severely damage these organs which can lead to serious and even life-threatening conditions such as hepatitis and cirrhosis. In addition, the sugar content of alcohol can also result in diabetes. In short, alcohol abuse makes your renal system work overtime, and the results can be devastating.
As you can see, prolonged overuse of alcohol takes a toll on your body. While your systems take longer to recover and regain function, a side effect is that your body’s natural ability to fight off germs and disease is compromised. Having a weakened immune system leaves alcoholics more susceptible to common illnesses like colds and stomach flu, as well as much more serious conditions, notably, many kinds of cancer.
Finally, alcohol constricts the blood vessels, which may lead to high blood pressure, increasing risks of heart disease, heart attacks, or strokes. Over-use of alcohol can also cause a person to become obese, which also puts a strain on the heart and leads to a higher risk of these conditions.
Most people won’t have to worry about these issues because they have a healthy relationship with alcohol. If you do abuse it, understand that these are some of the risks, and consider cutting back or seeking treatment to quit altogether.