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Effects of Alcohol: Excessive Heavy Drinking

Alcohol affects the mind and body. The degree of these effects on a given individual depends on the amount of alcohol he/she consumes. 

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How Does Alcohol Effect the Body?

Each person consumes alcohol differently. Some people regulate their drinking while others have no self-control. In certain cases, the individual doesn’t know the limits and overdrinks unintentionally.

To know the limits, you must know where the line is drawn between social drinking and alcohol abuse. A single drink is defined as:

  • 12 fl oz of beer – roughly 5% alcohol
  • 8-9 fl oz of malt liquor – approximately 7% alcohol
  • 5 fl oz of wine – roughly 12% alcohol
  • 1-1/2 of 80-proof distilled spirits (vodka, rum, gin, tequila, whisky) – roughly 40% alcohol

The dangers of alcohol are also impacted by pre-existing conditions in the user, such as his/her medical history or physical condition. For example, a tall, heavy individual will have a lower blood alcohol concentration than a short, thin person. Women have lower thresholds than men.

The effects of alcohol are exacerbated by substance abuse. If a person over-drinks and also consumes drugs (prescription or illicit), the combined or conflicting effects could ravage the body.

What do Doctors Mean by Blood Alcohol Content?

An individual’s threshold for alcoholic beverages is determined by his/her blood alcohol content (BAC). This correlates to alcohol’s effects on the nervous system. Someone new to alcohol will have a lower tolerance level than an experienced drinker.

The person’s BAC determines his/her ability to handle alcohol at certain levels of consumption. A person with low BAC will typically experience mild effects from moderate alcohol consumption; effects that pass after a couple of hours. If the person over-drinks and raises his/her BAC, the effects will be more intoxicating.

BAC percentages correlate to the following symptoms:

  • BAC: 0.033-0.12%– flushed skin, short attention span, impaired coordination and judgment
  • BAC: 0.09-0.25% – sedation, memory loss, poor comprehension, impaired balance (ataxia), blurred vision
  • BAC 0.25-0.40% – lapses in consciousness, impaired memory, wobbly movement, regurgitation, slow breathing, trouble urinating, slowed heart rate
  • BAC 0.35-0.80% – impaired pupillary response, respiratory depression, dangerously slowed heart rate

The last two are dangerous. Amnesia starts in the 0.25-0.40 range. A BAC in the 0.35-0.80 range could be fatal.

Risks of Drinking

Drinking risks soar among individuals who regularly take their BAC to 0.80%.

  • Stroke – People who drink excessively are likelier to suffer a stroke than average drinkers.
  • Liver disease – Excess alcohol can ravage the liver. Alcoholism is responsible for more than two million cases of liver disease in the US.
  • Compromised immune system – Alcohol degrades the immune system and leaves the person more vulnerable to infection and contagious pathogens.

During instances of binge drinking, where the user consumes multiple drinks within two hours and doubles the gender threshold — five or more drinks for men; four or more for women — that person is 70% likelier to wind up in ER. 

Pregnant women should avoid alcohol, period.

How Excessive Alcohol Affects the Body

Alcohol dependence can impact an individual in ways that aren’t visibly apparent on the outside. Excessive alcohol use impacts the blood vessels and internal organs. As the body processes alcohol, it has adverse effects on the organs that pass it through the body. People who drink heavily expose themselves to long-term health risks that are often irreversible.

Alcohol use disorder puts the following organs at increased risk of permanent damage:

  • Brain – Alcohol addiction affects memory. Excessive drinking can cause amnesia and do permanent damage to areas of the brain, such as the cerebral cortex, which plays a vital role in mind-body coordination. When damaged, a person can have difficulty walking or keeping balance.
  • Heart – Excessive alcohol use can impact heart health. Alcohol raises triglyceride levels, a blood fat that causes diabetes and heart disease. When cardiovascular issues start, the early symptoms include hypertension and irregular heartbeats. These can trigger numerous health problems and increase the likelihood of stroke and cardiac arrest.
  • Liver – Excessive alcohol consumption can devastate the liver, which normally separates alcohol from the bloodstream as liquids pass through the body. However, large amounts of alcohol in short order (binge drinking) can overwhelm the process and cause fatty liver, a chronic condition that often triggers obesity and diabetes.
  • Pancreas – The pancreas regulates the body’s blood sugar levels. Too much alcohol can cause swelling in the surrounding blood vessels, which causes pancreatitis, a lethal cancer that spreads fast and is hard to reverse. Symptoms include diarrhea, high blood pressure and fever.

Drinking alcohol in excess quantities can also cause cirrhosis, fibrosis and alcoholic hepatitis.

Short-Term Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse

People who drink alcohol in excessive quantities place themselves at risk of numerous adverse effects. However, the effects vary from person-to-person. Some people could suffer these conditions sooner, depending on their BAC. The short-term side effects of alcohol consumption include:

  • Slurred speech – People who are incoherent and hard to understand, even when they’re reading a teleprompter, are usually intoxicated.
  • Vision impairment – Excessive alcohol use makes it difficult to see things at a distance.
  • Uncoordinated movement – Drunkenness compromises mind-body coordination; this is why it’s illegal to drink and drive.
  • Mood swings – People who over-drink or binge drink are prone to outbursts and violent episodes. Domestic violence and crime often stem from excessive drinking.
  • Blackouts – Example: people who wake up in strange places and can’t remember the night before (i.e. “getting hammered”).
  • Slowed breathing – Bad for health; this deprives the body of its necessary oxygen supply.

People with alcohol use disorder are more likely to place themselves in grave danger by doing stunts such as standing on ledges.

Long-Term Effects of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

People who drink alcoholic beverages in vast quantities over extended periods risk long-term, irreversible health conditions. Examples of long-term alcohol effects include:

  • Ulcers – When the stomach is forced to handle alcohol toxins in vast amounts, it can cause a sore in the lining.
  • Nerve damage – Heavy drinking impacts the central nervous system. Over time, this does serious damage.
  • Cardiovascular diseases – Conditions such as abnormal heart rhythms, aorta disease, coronary artery disease, heart failure and heart attacks can stem from prolonged heavy drinking.
  • Respiratory infections – Conditions that make it hard to breathe are often alcohol-related.
  • Cancer – Alcohol has been linked to head and neck cancer, colorectal cancer, rectal cancer, pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.
  • Liver disease – People who over-consume alcohol and engage in substance abuse are at great risk of liver cancer and non-cancerous liver failure.

Drinking excessively has no health benefits and numerous health risks. Anyone who can’t stop drinking or limit themselves to moderate drinking should get help at a rehab center immediately.

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Some people drink to cope with mental health issues. Others over-drink without even realizing the problem. Certain people lack the self-restraint for moderate drinking. Whatever the case, rehab centers across the US offer programs that treat people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

People with drinking problems are rarely able to halt their alcohol abuse without outside help. That’s understandable; alcohol is one of the most toxic substances available on the free market. For successful long-term recovery, detox and rehab should always be done at a treatment center.

At rehab centers, counselors tend to the emotional needs of each patient. They offer individual counseling, group therapy, education, wellness exercises and accommodations. They also host family therapy sessions to mend communication gaps between addicted individuals and loved ones.

Stop Drinking Now

Alcohol abuse can be life-threatening. Don’t let this problem overtake the lives of anyone you know and love. Contact a nearby rehab center, inquire about their programs and put an end to this problem now.

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

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