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How Does Alcohol Affect The Body?

It’s an all-too-familiar feeling: the effects of alcohol on the body. Waking up to blindingly bright lights, a pounding headache, eyes that are seemingly glued shut, and a serious sense of regret. Anyone who’s ever had a hangover knows just how physically unpleasant the aftereffects of alcohol are, and it’s almost never more obvious than in that dreaded moment just how bad booze is for the body.

But the fact is that even moderate alcohol consumption can cause a variety of detrimental physical ailments. One needn’t close down the bar every night in order to start to see the way that alcohol can slowly (or not so slowly) erode vital bodily functions. It’s insidious the way the effects of alcohol harm practically everything a human being needs to survive on a fundamental level, organ by organ.

The Brain

Alcohol wreaks havoc with cognition, potentially making one clumsy and mentally slow. The attention span is greatly affected by alcohol, which could contribute to trouble with focus and with multitasking.

It becomes harder to both learn new information and recall old information – something that could lead to flunking out of school or getting fired from a job due to poor performance. Studies have shown that alcohol use reduces the volume of the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in learning and remembering.

The Heart

Drinking leads to heart disease, which affects almost half of all Americans, killing one every 36 seconds. The muscle of the heart itself can be damaged, potentially beyond repair.

One’s likelihood of having a stroke, high blood pressure, or an irregular heartbeat all increase when one consumes alcohol. One’s heart could even fail entirely, resulting in death or a possible complication of the above conditions.

The Liver

The liver is responsible for keeping the body clean of toxins and infections. It also plays a crucial role in digestion and possesses an almost miraculous ability to heal itself and regenerate over time.

Drinking too much alcohol can destroy the ability of the liver to grow back after it’s been damaged. Some of the effects of alcohol on the body include alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis of the liver. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, “A person who has alcohol-related cirrhosis and does not stop drinking has a less than 50% chance of living for at least 5 more years.”

Perhaps most frighteningly, cirrhosis of the liver can appear with few or no symptoms, meaning many drinkers have no idea the damage they’re doing to themselves until it’s too late.

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The Formation Of Disease

Alcohol causes cancer. This includes cancer of the head and neck, the esophagus, the liver, the breasts, the colon, and the rectum. According to the American Journal of Public Health, 3.5% of all cancer deaths in the US were associated with alcohol in 2009.

Another one of the effects of alcohol on the body is damage to the immune system, meaning the body is less prepared to fight off infection, including diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), when it comes to COVID-19, drinking alcohol, “is likely to increase the health risks if a person becomes infected.” In fact, having a recent substance use disorder increases the risk of catching COVID-19 8 times over.

The Risk Of Accidents

Alcohol does not only destroy the body from within. It can also cause fatal harm due to an alcohol-induced accident. The WHO reports that the risk of dying in a car accident, a drowning, or a fall is increased by drinking alcohol. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol was involved in 28% of all American traffic fatalities in 2016.

Alcohol’s Effects On The Body: The Price Paid

Alcohol use and abuse exacts a heavy toll – it has been shown to damage just about every organ in the body.

Drinkers who find themselves feeling “a little slow” after a night of tossing them back, or those who experience mysterious pains in their chest or in their gut after drinking, may not be imagining things. It’s entirely possible they’re feeling their body collapse in real-time. And, as seen with cirrhosis of the liver, some of the worst effects may not show symptoms at all.

Even if one’s organs survive the toxins ingested, the risk of dying from an alcohol-related accident is just too high to justify. That’s why, if you or a loved one can’t stop drinking, it’s crucially important to get help now and not later. The body can recover from many of the corrosive harms of alcohol, but time is of the absolute essence.

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