Light to moderate alcohol consumption for social or relaxation purposes is often considered acceptable and enjoyable. In addition, a specific population also does not use alcohol at all for moral or health reasons. Then on the other end of the spectrum is a population who drink heavily and may be caught up in an alcohol use disorder. However, for those who drink any alcohol, the forethought is typically contained in the effects of alcohol and not how alcohol abuse damages the body.
Understanding the ramifications of how alcoholism damages the body is essential for those who are heavy drinkers. The National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism defines heavy drinking as 5 or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on the same day in the last 30 days.
Those drinking within these parameters can quickly develop an alcohol use disorder and need to know how alcohol abuse damages the body. Consequently, drinking more alcohol than the body can process leads to intoxication as the alcohol moves through the bloodstream and the entire body.
How Alcohol Impacts the Brain
Alcohol is a central nervous system suppressant. Understanding how alcoholism damages the body begins in the brain and the effect alcohol has on neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters send communications throughout the brain that control emotions, feelings, balance, memory, speech, and other cognitive functions, like making sound judgments. Alcohol slows the brain’s processing systems and increases dopamine, which induces feelings of relaxation, calm, and happiness.
Unfortunately, drinking too much alcohol can trigger unconsciousness and even coma. Alcohol abuse damages the body by causing neuron alterations, which can affect cognitive functions. Alcohol-induced blackouts are gaps in memory from intoxication. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that deals with memory, and blackouts transfer short-term memories to long-term storage, also known as memory consolidation. Alcohol-induced blackouts can occur regularly from heavy drinking habits.
The neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is linked to producing feelings of stress, panic, fear, and other adverse emotions that alcohol can trigger. The communication in the brain’s neural pathways is disrupted when excessive amounts of alcohol are consumed. GABA regulates the central nervous system, including the five senses. For this reason, detoxification from alcohol can have severe withdrawal symptoms.
How Alcoholism Impacts the Central Nervous System
Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, affecting behavior, speech, and coordination. Alcohol abuse damages the body by causing weakness, temporary paralysis, and numbness.
Long-term heavy alcohol consumption can shrink the brain’s frontal lobes and cause neurocognitive deficits and neurodegeneration. Alcohol use can suppress excitatory nerve pathway activity, affecting muscle stimulation and other primary sensory body functions.
How Alcoholism Impacts the Liver
The liver is a significant body organ often connected to how alcoholism damages the body. This organ breaks down toxins in the body, and when the liver is adversely affected by alcohol, the chances of contracting hepatitis, jaundice, and cirrhosis are increased. A liver continually damaged by alcohol consumption can build scar tissue until it is destroyed.
Additionally, the liver metabolizes alcohol with enzymes such as alcohol dehydrogenases. Once the enzymes break down the alcohol, acetaldehyde, a toxin, is let go into the bloodstream. The body tries to rid itself of this agen through sweating, stool, and urine, but it is the contributing factor in a hangover because it does not all leave the body.
Alcohol abuse damages the body with occasional drinking binges by leaving fatty deposits on the liver. This is an unfortunate consequence of the liver metabolizing so much alcohol.
How Alcoholism Impacts the Kidney
The kidneys are another filtering system within the body to filter harmful toxins from the blood. Alcohol abuse damages the body by causing kidney changes, causing them to filter less effectively. The kidneys monitor water levels and keep the body’s hydration levels regular. Alcohol dehydrates the body and makes it challenging for the kidneys to do their job.
Alcohol consumption also affects blood pressure. Medications for blood pressure can be adversely affected by alcohol, and this is a danger. Only 2 drinks a day can raise blood pressure, and if the liver is already affected, which is how alcoholism damages the body, the kidneys become negatively affected further. Most people in the United States have associated kidney dysfunction with liver disease connected to alcohol use disorders.
How Alcoholism Impacts the Stomach and Digestive Track
How alcoholism damages the body begins with alcohol being absorbed through the stomach lining into the bloodstream. Factors such as the size of the stomach and the portion of food the person eats that day determine how quickly the alcohol enters the bloodstream.
This causes a delay in the desired effect of the alcohol. The lag in time is a common cause of drinking too much too soon when all control can be lost. Alcohol is responsible for causing difficulties in maintaining good bacteria in the gut and absorbing nutrition from food.
Other ways alcohol abuse damages the body include any of the following conditions:
- Acid reflux and heartburn
- Stomach ulcers and gastritis
- Internal bleeding
- Esophageal ulcers
- Gum disease and tooth decay
- Salivary gland damage
The Dangers of Alcohol Overdose
When clear-cut signs of how alcoholism damages the body are ignored, the damage to the bodily organs and brain can result in alcohol overdose. If the levels of alcohol are so high in the bloodstream, the areas of the brain controlling life-supporting functions begin to be severely affected.
Drastic negative changes in breathing, heart rate, and body temperature can be signals of potential alcohol overdose. Alcohol overdose can lead to permanent brain damage or death.
Furthermore, withdrawal symptoms during detox from alcohol can be severe and sometimes life-threatening. The severity of a long-term alcohol use disorder is challenging to recover from, but it is possible with medically monitored detox and medication-assisted treatment. Residential rehab is typically recommended for those with long-term alcohol use disorders.
Recovery Can Reverse Damage to the Body
Find assistance in choosing a treatment center for an alcohol use disorder in Tennessee. Detox West Tennessee specializes in detox programs for substance use disorders and is equipped to care for those with a severe alcohol use disorder. Our medically monitored detox programs are safe and reliable, with an option for medication-assisted treatment.
Contact our admissions office with questions, and we can explain our treatment options and address individual needs.