12 Long-Term Health Issues Associated With Alcohol Abuse

While extensive drinking tears apart relationships and lives, it also wreaks havoc on the human body. Consuming alcohol in excess over long periods of time can lead to many heath issues, some slightly serious and others fatal.

Below is a list of the possible health outcomes associated with alcohol abuse

Cancer. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to several types of cancer, including esophageal cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, head and neck cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and most commonly, liver cancer.  Alcohol leads to cancer by affecting the body in a number of ways. Alcohol can damage body tissue, especially in the throat and mouth. Additionally, alcohol can act as a solvent with other harmful chemicals, such as those found in tobacco. This allows harmful chemicals to enter cells. Excessive alcohol use also leads to nutrient deficiencies. Alcohol can lower the body’s likeliness of absorbing folate, a vitamin cell required to stay healthy. Low folate levels potentially increase the likeliness of breast and colorectal cancers.

Cardiovascular disease. Excessive drinking increases the likelihood of blood clots, which can cause heart attacks or strokes. Drinking in excess can also lead to cardiomyopathy, a condition where the muscle of the heart weakens and eventually gives out. Heart rhythms and abnormalities are also associated with alcohol abuse.  

Cirrhosis. Alcohol acts as a toxin to cells in the liver (the organ that processes alcohol) leading to a condition called cirrhosis. In simple terms, cirrhosis is the result of the liver being so scarred that it can no longer function in the body. 

Gout. Gout is a form of arthritis and is especially painful. It occurs when too much uric acid accumulates in the joints of the body. Alcohol, especially beer, contains purines, a substance that breaks down into uric acid. The more someone drinks, the more uric acid builds up and this may lead to gout. 

Depression. Alcoholism can be either a symptom of depression or the cause of it. The cycle is sometimes unclear. Alcohol is often viewed as an attempt to self-medicate, or a way of avoiding dealing with depression or feeling the emotions associated with it. 

Anemia. Anemia is a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood. Alcohol causes the number of red blood cells in the body to decrease, leading to this condition. Symptoms of anemia include shortness of breath, fatigue, and light-headedness. Treatment options vary depending on the type of and severity of the disease. 

Dementia. Heavy drinking can speed shrinkage of the brain, something that is inevitable as people grow older. However, due to the rate of shrinkage caused by alcohol abuse, it can lead to memory loss and inability to plan or make judgments. 

Seizures. Excessive drinking can cause anyone to have a seizure and can be especially dangerous to those individuals with epilepsy, as it interferes with medications. In very serious cases seizures can also be a result of alcohol withdrawals. 

High blood pressure. Alcohol affects the nervous system, which controls constriction and dilation of blood vessels in response to environmental factors such as stress and temperature. Heavy drinking leads to chronic high blood pressure, which can lead to other health problems such as kidney and heart disease. 

Disease. Alcohol in excess interferes with the immune system, which means it loses ability to fight off infection. This allows the body to be more susceptible to diseases like pneumonia.

Alcoholic neuropathy. This condition is a form of nerve damage which results in pain or numbness in extremities. It also causes muscle weakness, constipation and erectile dysfunction, among other health problems. The cause of alcoholic neuropathy may be the fact that alcohol is toxic to nerve cells. 

Pancreatitis. Alcohol irritates the stomach, but it can also inflame the pancreas, which is vital in digesting foods. Lack of digestion leads to stomach pains and diarrhea. Pancreatitis is not a treatable condition. 

These are just a few of the numerous drawbacks of drinking in excess.

If you’re ready to change your life, contact us and get help today. Call 407.680.1226.

Written by: Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a newspaper reporter and graphic designer from Minnesota who writes about the realities of getting sober young. Follow her on Twitter.