Alcohol is a toxic substance. Having a drink now and then does not usually pose a health problem. However, the physical complications of alcoholism and addiction are many, and they can be very serious. Read on to learn about the long-term health effects of alcoholism.
About Alcohol Abuse
Most people do not drink with the goal of becoming dependent on the substance. It may begin with a beer or two to relax after a busy day at work or a glass of wine with dinner. Drinking becomes a problem when a daily habit forms and tolerance to alcohol’s effects start to slowly increase. This prompts the person to have an extra beer or a second glass of wine.
Once the brain and body start to expect the daily input of alcohol, the brain chemistry becomes altered. This sets in motion the cycle of seeking, using, and recovering from alcohol use. The cravings and withdrawal symptoms act as triggers that prolong the cycle.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
Someone with a drinking problem will begin to fall into certain behavior patterns. The more of these behaviors and symptoms present, the more severe the alcohol problem is. Be aware of these warning signs:
- Failed attempts to limit or quit drinking.
- Drinking more and over a longer period than intended.
- Needing to drink more to achieve the desired effects.
- Hiding alcohol; lying about how much is being consumed.
- Spending a great deal of time drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking.
- Neglecting family or work obligations.
- Injuries or memory blackouts occur.
- Using alcohol to self-medicate a mental health disorder, to fall asleep, or to manage stressful social situations.
- Keep drinking even as negative consequences pile up.
- Physical signs of alcohol abuse, like bloating, distention of the gut, glassy eyes, and ruddy skin.
- Tremors and nausea when the effects of alcohol wear off.
What Are the Physical Complications of Alcoholism?
The adverse health effects caused by alcohol abuse are many. An article published in the Alcohol Research and Health journal reports that alcohol abuse can cause the following conditions:
- Cancers. Alcohol abuse increases the risk for cancer, including cancers of the oral, throat, esophageal, colon, breast, rectal, liver, and pancreas.
- Liver disease. Because alcohol is metabolized in the liver, it can lead to many liver diseases. These include fatty liver, hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
- Brain. Chronic alcohol abuse leads to many forms of brain damage. These include brain cell death, early onset dementia, thiamine deficiency, and loss of blood flow in the brain.
- Cardiovascular disease. Alcohol abuse is linked to heart damage. Some of these heart conditions include high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, and heart failure.
- Pancreas disease. Alcohol is very toxic to the pancreas and can cause pancreatitis and type-2 diabetes.
- Immune health. Alcohol abuse can weaken the body’s immune system. This causes the person to be more prone to diseases like pneumonia or tuberculosis.
- Injury. While under the influence of alcohol, loss of balance and slowed reactions can lead to accidental injuries.
Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning. Binge drinking is defined as drinking five or more drinks within a two-hour time span. More than that, the liver cannot metabolize the alcohol, and the toxins spill into the bloodstream.
The physical complications of binge drinking are quite serious, and can even prove fatal. The symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
- Low body temperature.
- Irregular breathing.
- Pale, clammy skin.
- Mental confusion
How To Overcome Alcoholism
To ignore an alcohol use disorder is never wise. Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive, relapsing brain disease. When the problem is ignored it only allows the alcohol issue to worsen, so delaying treatment is not advised.
The best chance to arrest the progression of alcohol use disorder is to enroll in a comprehensive residential treatment program. These programs provide a secure environment with 24-hour support. After detox is completed, the days will be filled with a range of activities, including:
- One-on-one talk therapy. Using assorted evidence-based therapies like CBT and DBT, you learn to develop new thought and behavior patterns. When these are practiced they become vital coping skills in recovery.
- Group therapy. Sharing experiences with others in recovery can be a source of support and bonding.
- Classes. Includes addiction education, relapse prevention, and recovery skills.
- Holistic activities. Learning how to better manage stress is very helpful in recovery. Practices introduced include yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi.
- 12-step. The 12-steps are often included in the treatment programming.
How To Remain Sober
Even after you have finished the treatment program, there is still work to be done in recovery. Alcoholism is a lifelong disease, so learning ways to reinforce sobriety is critical to a successful recovery.
Some measures to take after rehab include:
- Sober living. There are many benefits to spending some months in sober living. This is really true if the home setting is not supportive of sobriety. Sober living offers substance-free living space and companionship.
- Outpatient program. Keep working with a therapist on a weekly basis for ongoing support. Therapy sessions can be one-on-one or in group formats. These sessions offer a place to work out any issues you encounter in your recovery journey.
- Recovery group meetings. There are various recovery programs to choose from. Find one that fits and attend meetings often. You will find these meetings offer peer support and also opportunities to make new sober friendships.
The physical complications of alcoholism can become life-threatening if it is left unchecked. Get the help you need and deserve to overcome this serious disease. Reach out today.
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