Many people enjoy having an alcoholic beverage or two from time to time. This is a fairly normal behavior, whether you have gone out for some drinks with friends, or you’re having a glass of wine at home after a long day at work.
Just like most things in life, alcohol is (somewhat) harmless in moderation. In fact, studies have shown that the occasional glass of wine can be good for you, providing antioxidants, giving protection against heart disease, amongst other benefits!
So, when does drinking alcohol become a problem?
In this article, we will discuss the dangers of alcoholism, and the potentially irreversible conditions that can be developed through heavy drinking (see also ‘Drinker’s Nose — Fact or Fiction?‘).
What Defines Alcoholism AUD?
When a person can no longer go a day without consuming alcohol, they can no longer control their intake, and begin depending on the substance, they may have fallen victim to alcoholism.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a serious condition that deeply impacts a person’s life, consistently feeling a somewhat uncontrollable desire to consume alcohol. When a person has AUD, alcohol has become a part of their life, for good and for bad.
The Harmful Cycle of AUD
The longer a person continues to abuse alcohol, the harder it will be to break away from the cycle.
The issue with alcoholism is that it is an addiction, and many people believe that the substance helps their lives in one form or another, when in reality, it does the opposite.
Alcohol can take extremely negative tolls on a person’s body and mind, whether they struggle with AUD or not.
It is a depressant, meaning that it slows down the individual’s reaction times, affects their memory, and delays several vital functions in the body.
Many people who suffer with poor mental health may find themselves stuck in a cycle when it comes to abusing alcohol (see also ‘Is Alcoholism A Mental Illness?‘), along with other substances.
At first, these substances help relieve their mood. Once their bodies become tolerant to alcohol, however, they need to drink more and more in order to experience the same sensation that they initially felt.
Along with this, the aftermath of alcohol can make a depressed and/or anxious person feel so much worse once it has worn off.
There seems to be only two choices in these scenarios: stop drinking and feel mentally unstable for a while, or continue drinking.
After long periods of drinking, especially binge-drinking, a person’s brain can become damaged. Sometimes, this damage can become permanent.
The Reversible Effects From Alcohol Abuse
There are several conditions that can be developed through excessive alcohol abuse. Thankfully, some of them can be cured over time.
Alcohol gastritis occurs when the stomach lining gets irritated and worn down as a result of excessive alcohol use. It can cause symptoms of abdominal pain, anemia, loss of appetite, indigestion, and fatigue.
More serious problems, such as gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage, widespread peritonitis, sepsis, and multi—organ failure, might occur as a result of this.
Gastritis, thankfully, is curable if found early enough. It can, however, become fatal if the stomach lining becomes punctured, leading to digestive acids being released into the abdominal cavity as a result.
Thiamine insufficiency is one of the key causes of alcohol-related brain damage. Thiamine, often known as vitamin B, is essential for carbohydrate conversion and the efficient operation of brain chemical messengers.
Regularly consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can compromise the body’s ability to absorb thiamine, blocking cells from receiving enough vitamins. The development of alcohol-induced dementia is, perhaps, one of the worst-case scenarios of long-term thiamine deficiency.
Vitamin replacement therapy, as well as the person no longer drinking alcohol, will be required to recover from thiamine deficiency.
Wernicke encephalopathy (WE) is a severe neurological condition caused by thiamine shortage, which is nearly always caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
WE can be hard to recognize since many of the symptoms are similar to those of alcohol withdrawal.
Mild memory loss, poor balance, and malnutrition are just a few of the symptoms.
This condition is treated by discontinuing alcohol consumption altogether, and administering numerous injections of high-dose thiamine.
The Permanent Effects From Alcohol Abuse
Unfortunately, certain conditions caused through alcohol abuse cannot be reversed. It is best to seek medical help before any of these conditions occur.
Alcohol Liver Disease
Due to alcohol being digested before other substances, it can have a significant impact on the liver, which is responsible for removing waste and other hazardous materials from the body.
When a person consumes large amounts of alcohol, the liver has to work even harder to execute its tasks.
Cirrhosis of the liver is an example of a disorder that can result in significant liver damage. If this occurs, the only method to correct it is to undergo a liver transplant.
Osteoporosis causes a person’s bones to lose density, get more and more fragile, and are more likely to break.
Although this condition is more common in the elderly, especially females, it can be hastened by excessive drinking.
After someone quits drinking, getting therapy for the condition can potentially limit the damage. However, those with severe osteoporosis will almost certainly not be able to reverse all of the damage, and may need to use a wheelchair for the rest of their lives.
Despite the fact that small amounts of wine can help protect a person against heart conditions, large quantities can, instead, put them at risk.
Additionally, if an individually already suffers from a cardiac condition, they should avoid alcohol altogether.
Heavy drinking can, potentially, put a person at risk of developing alcoholic cardiomyopathy, high cholesterol, hypertension, and even sudden cardiac death.
If you believe that you could be suffering from AUD, or if you have any issues controlling your drinking, you should contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
The first step is to seek help, and by doing so, you will not only improve your mental health, but you will also reduce the risk of future irreversible health problems.
We wish you the best of luck.