How does alcohol abuse affect the immune system? Drinking daily or excessively can have a direct adverse effect on overall health. Excessive or abusive habits of alcohol consumption can attack the immune system, which protects the body from infection and disease.

A weakened immune system can allow viruses, infections, colds, bacterial infections, and severe health conditions such as cancer and liver failure to occur. Those already susceptible to infection and other health conditions may want to evaluate their alcohol consumption.

Although living a healthy and fulfilled life is a positive goal, monitoring diet, exercise, and how much alcohol is taken in are essential factors. Those who question the amount of alcohol taken in affects the immune system can stop drinking for a few weeks and see how they feel. Those who cannot go more than a few weeks without alcohol may have an alcohol use disorder. 

How Alcohol Affects the Immune System

The body’s immune system is protective armor that fights infections, viruses, and diseases. Suppressing the immune system causes the body and mind to become vulnerable to adversity. Everything affects the immune system, diet, exercise, and environmental factors, including alcohol abuse.

Anything that is put into the body will affect our defense system. Alcohol and other drugs excessively used can cause the immune system to react more slowly or not at all to infections, viruses, and diseases. The immune system is a complex combination of cells and proteins that recognize invaders to the body and attack any adverse condition.

A compromised immune system could cause symptoms of infection, sickness, and disease to be intensified and last a long time. In some cases, infections can escalate, and resist antibiotics when prescribed. Alcohol can also affect the body with hangover symptoms from drinking too much and frequently.

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Immune System

How does alcohol abuse affect the immune system on a short-term basis? Unfortunately, there are many false beliefs concerning how much alcohol is dangerous to consume. It is a widespread belief that one must consume large amounts of alcohol over the long term for any damage to occur. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has established that a single drinking episode can cause the immune system to be suppressed for twenty-four hours. 

The short-term effects of alcohol on the immune system could include any of the following:

  • A suppressed immune system could lead to a higher susceptibility to diseases. 
  • Alcohol misuse can lead to reduced sleep quality, suppression of the immune system, and an inability to fight off infections, viruses, and diseases.
  • Gut complications from alcohol destroy healthy gut bacteria. 
  • Alcohol consumption kills healthy gut bacteria that help to clear pathogens.
  • In addition, alcohol damages T cells, neutrophils, and epithelial cells, negatively affecting the gut. 
  • Gut damage can cause a higher vulnerability to food poisoning and the ability to absorb nutrients in the intestines.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Immune System

How does alcohol abuse affect the immune system on a long-term basis? A complicated chemical cellular disturbance occurs with long-term alcohol use within the immune system.

The harmful disturbance initiates a significant increase in risk for infections and inflammation that wouldn’t usually occur. In addition, long-term alcohol consumption can cause unpleasant side effects of abnormal inflammation within the body. 

The following adverse effects can occur with long-term alcohol misuse:

  • Liver disease: because the liver filters alcohol, liver cells die with each drink of alcohol. While the cells will regenerate for some time, over a long-term basis, this ability is reduced. ALD, Alcohol Liver Disease, can begin as fatty liver but end with alcoholic hepatitis and eventually cirrhosis. 
  • Liver failure: Once the liver reduces to the experience of ALD and cirrhosis has been diagnosed, irreversible changes occur. Scar tissues build up and prevent any regenerative ability. 
  • Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C: Hepatitis either B  or C cause severe liver inflammation. The immune system is compromised and cannot fight the virus. 
  • Septicemia: Unfortunately, septicemia is a bloodstream infection; the immune system cannot fight off a bacterial infection elsewhere. The bacterial infection could have begun in the gut, lungs, bladder, skin, or kidneys before entering the bloodstream. This cognition can lead to the life-threatening condition of sepsis. 
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTI): infection in the urethra, bladder, or kidneys. 
  • Cancer: The National Cancer Institute states alcohol can increase the risk of liver, breast, throat, mouth, larynx, and esophageal cancers. Long-term, alcohol will also hinder the body from absorbing essential vitamins that fight against cancer. 

Once the immune system is compromised by long-term alcohol abuse, respiratory complications can occur; empyema and pneumonia are common. So how does alcohol abuse affect the immune system?

First, it prevents the body from stopping lung abscesses from developing into lung obstructions and infections. The treatments for these diseases are uncomfortable and do not guarantee relief. There is also a danger of cellulitis, post-surgery complications, and difficulty in healing wounds. 

Factors That Affect How Alcohol Affects the Immune System

How does alcohol abuse affect the immune system? Therefore, it is essential to portray the truth of alcohol abuse and how damaging it can be. Determining factors can affect the intensity of the damage from drinking too much alcohol.

The following factors are also actual with any substance use disorder. 

  • The duration or time length of the alcohol abuse
  • The amount of alcohol consumed daily
  • The type of alcohol being consumed
  • The physical condition of the person abusing alcohol

While treatment is available and recovery can reverse some damage, reaching out for help is essential. For example, if someone experiences a severe alcohol use disorder and wants to get help to become sober, it may be their chance to heal some of the damage that has occurred. Remember, there are treatment options that can make positive and hopeful changes in someone’s life. Repair the body by committing to become sober.

End An Alcohol Use Disorder in Tennessee

Most people don’t know about the long-term effects of too much alcohol. If you have read through this page and can understand the situation, but need help getting treatment, contact Detox West in Tennessee.

Our understanding and compassionate staff is equipped to reassure you with your questions and concerns. Their programs are consistent with well-proven therapies and educational options. Start repairing your body and mind through our treatment programs.

Contact our intake staff today.