The Dangers of Alcoholism: A Hangover May Just Be The Start Of Your Troubles
Did you ever wake up with a hangover and think, “I must have lost a few thousand brain cells last night. Well, easy come, easy go.”
It happens every day around the world. In fact, it is easy for a young alcoholic to gloss over the idea that alcohol is having a negative impact on their body. If drinking is having a negative physical effect, most younger drinkers would think they could just put off thinking about that until tomorrow.
And, true enough, this kind of jesting naivete can get you by for a few years. You probably do have a few brain cells to spare. Serious health effects usually do not take affect for some years into what is termed the advanced stages of alcoholism. But one thing you might want to consider is that the brain may be the least your worries. You might be long dead, that is to say, before brain lesions start to form. Then again, you, might not.
One point to consider is that alcohol enters the body’s blood stream, where it travels throughout the body. Everywhere the blood goes, so goes the alcohol. This is why the list of debilitating ailments that begin to kick after years of drinking in is, indeed, a veritable laundry list of body parts. There’s no alcohol-related illness that concerns your finger nails or your teeth. But that’s about it for spared bodily functions after years of heavy drinking. The truth is, if blood goes to it, eventually alcohol will take its toll.
A second, ugly fact to consider is this: When they say your dear Uncle Tankard died of cirrhosis of the liver, a fairly common, fatal illness associated with alcoholism, what you may be missing part of the story. The truth is by the time cirrhosis of the liver becomes fatal it is very likely the alcoholic also has chronic heart disease, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, nutritional illnesses and possibly throat and liver cancer.
At the funeral, the gathered mourners say, “Too bad his liver gave out.” But that may not be an entirely honest assessment of how bad off Uncle Tankard may have been.
Alcoholism is frequently described as progressing from an early stage to a late stage, all depending on how long a person has been drinking. Early stages of alcoholism may not require much medical attention at all. A teenage alcoholic has a serious, lifelong issue to confront called addiction. But there is a chance the physical effects have not yet become irreversible.
Consider, if you will, the dangers of alcoholism:
Alcoholism is frequently associated with heart failure, heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, and even alcohol poisoning of the heart muscles, which is a condition known as cardiomyopathy.
The heart is a muscle, which means all of your muscles can also be affected by alcohol. Specific conditions include cramps, weakness, conditions related to vitamin deficiencies, and atrophy
Alcohol has profound affects on the nervous system. This should be painfully obvious, given the immediate effects drinking has on someone. Those affects include loss of balance, slurred speech, and other behavioral changes.
Long term drinking can lead to numbness, seizures, delirium and serious dementia. Those brain cells you thought you lost: You did. Consider this: Alcoholism is consistent with shrinking of the frontal lobe. This brain damage, when it occurs, is permanent.
Among other problems, alcoholism contributes not to a loss of sleep, but to a loss of quality sleep. It is thought that the lack of rapid eye movement sleep (or REM sleep) contributes to social problems, difficulty learning and difficulty problem solving.
Sexual and reproductive health
Aside from erectile dysfunction in men, alcohol is also widely known to be toxic and even fatal to a developing fetus. Fetal alcoholism syndrome refers to a wide range of serious and even fatal conditions, including sever brain damage to the fetus.
The digestive system is the one system a physician can point to and say that even one incident of getting drunk is damaging.
While the body can recover from one bout of drinking, there is at least proof that one incident of drinking has a negative effect on the digestive system. That is to say, while it may take time for full force stomach ulcers to form or for colon cancer to begin, the damage to the stomach is, in effect, immediate. People don’t vomit after drinking heavily because their stomachaches are well.
Over time, alcohol affects every part of the digest system from your gums and salivary glands to your esophagus and straight on down the line to the colon.
Drinking can bring on stomach cancer, internal bleeding hemorrhoids, esophageal varices, liver disease, kidney failure.
Behavioral changes are not physical, but their root cause is physical changes in the body.
There is also a wide range of behavioral issues associated with long-term alcoholism. Alcoholics drink to numb psychological pain. In this sense, while non-alcoholic peers are learning about themselves and maturing, an alcoholic tends to stop maturing as a person. Psychological issues that should be managed over time fester and turn into chronic anger, shame, depression and other psychological symptoms.
Needless to say credentialed recovery services and rehabilitation clinics are not just about psychological problems that accompany an addiction. Anyone in recovery should have a full physical workup as soon as they can. Not only do you need to take care of health issues immediately, many alcoholics, as a rule, avoid going to the doctor, because they are afraid the doctor will confront them on their drinking.
Leaving stressful conditions unattended, however, can lead to unnecessary stress. In recovery, the physical and mental issues will need to be addressed.
This article used information from the National Institute of Health’s “Beyond Hangovers,” which can be found at http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.pdf. It made use of the Futures, Palm Beach Web site information at http://www.futuresofpalmbeach.com/alcoholism/types-of-alcoholics/
It also borrowed from Foundation for a Drug Free World at http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/alcohol/short-term-long-term-effects.html