Alcohol is a fun indulgence for many people hoping to have a good time. Nights out with friends, a delicious dinner, or even just winding down at home seems to pair better with a drink in your hand.
While a few drinks here and there is no cause for concern, alcohol can quickly become a problem for some. Excessive drinking is a common issue, and often people who are overindulging may not realize the long-term effects alcohol will have on them.
There is a reason life insurance for alcoholics is more expensive than coverage for those who don’t drink in excess. Alcohol can have many adverse effects on your mind and body if abused long-term.
Alcohol’s Effect on The Body
When you consume alcohol excessively over long periods, your body will begin to feel the effects. Too much drinking can weaken your immune system and many of your organs can become damaged, leading to a severe impact on your overall health.
Alcohol May Lead to Heart Problems
Your heart is in charge of pumping blood throughout your body. However, when it receives alcohol-filled blood from your liver, it can cause damage to your heart and lead to lifelong problems.
Alcohol can cause your heart muscles to stretch and droop, also known as cardiomyopathy. This stretching leads to your heart becoming weaker and less able to pump blood throughout your body.
Over time, you may experience heart failure, irregular heartbeats, stroke, or high blood pressure. Other side effects include dizziness, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
Your Liver May Never Recover From Excessive Drinking
The liver is responsible for removing toxins from your bloodstream. However, when you are overindulging, your liver can’t keep up with how much alcohol you feed it. Too much drinking can cause your liver to build scar tissue, which replaces your normal, healthy cells.
The long-term effects of excessive alcohol on your liver may include cirrhosis, fibrosis, alcoholic hepatitis, and steatosis, also known as fatty liver. In worst-case scenarios, the damage from alcohol can cause liver failure, leading to death.
Your Stomach Will See Harsh Effects From Alcohol
Drinking alcohol disrupts your digestive system, no matter how much you consume. Because drinking increases the acid in your stomach, it can irritate the lining.
Over time, this irritation can cause long-term gastritis. Symptoms include stomach pain, heartburn, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. If gastritis is left untreated, it can lead to ulcers — painful, open sores inside your stomach.
Excessive Drinking Could Damage Your Kidneys
Your kidneys play an essential role in your body. Kidneys filter harmful substances out of your blood, maintain your body’s correct water levels, and release hormones that regulate blood pressure.
However, excessive alcohol can change the function of your kidneys, causing them to become less able to filter out your blood. Since kidneys are also responsible for blood pressure regulation, their damage may mean a high rise in blood pressure levels.
Over time, high blood pressure can lead to kidney disease. Signs of kidney disease include fatigue, trouble sleeping, dry skin, more frequent urination, blood in urine, foamy urine, puffy eyes, muscle cramps, swollen feet or ankles, and decreased appetite. If left untreated, this disease can lead to kidney failure.
Alcohol’s Effect on the Mind
Your body isn’t the only thing excessive drinking can affect. Your mind can also be harmed from too much alcohol. Long-term drinking can cause damage to the brain, leading to a change in its structure and function. Alcohol’s effect on the mind can also lead to tragedy in the form of car accidents caused by drunk driving.
Alcohol Will Alter Your Natural Dopamine Levels
Your brain will naturally produce dopamine — a hormone that helps regulate your mood. However, alcohol can alter your brain’s ability to create dopamine on its own.
Drinking triggers a much higher increase in dopamine levels. This extreme increase leads you to a desire to continue drinking, chasing those extra high levels of dopamine. These higher levels will cause your brain to produce less dopamine naturally, leaving you craving alcohol to fill their void.
Once you reach this point, you’ll begin to feel withdrawal symptoms without alcohol. Your brain will be out of balance, and it will take time to start regulating itself naturally again.
Overindulgence Could Worsen Depression
Consistent, excessive drinking can interfere with chemicals in the brain that promotes good mental health. Alcohol is a depressant, so even when using it as a mood booster, its effects on the brain are negative.
Combining depression and alcohol can lead to extremely poor choices, as drinking can cause you to lower your inhibitions.
As alcohol feeds your bad mood, you may act out negatively, such as overspending or lashing out at those you love. In extreme cases, those struggling with depression and excessively drinking may contemplate suicide, as alcohol is fueling their pain.
If you struggle with depression, long-term alcohol consumption can lead to potentially harmful actions.
Too Much Drinking Lead to Cognitive Impairment
Excessive alcohol consumption can have long-lasting effects on cognitive abilities. Too much drinking can negatively affect everyday actions like problem-solving and impulse control.
Over a prolonged period, the damage could lead to alcohol-related dementia. Symptoms may include:
- Decreased social skills
- Difficulty with logical thinking
- Inability to learn new things
- Memory loss
- Personality changes
If caught early enough, alcohol-related dementia may be reduced or reversed. However, if drinking continues, the symptoms will not decrease.
Excessive Alcohol Can Lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
Though considered two separate disorders, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome shares a combined name because they are commonly seen together.
Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a brain disorder brought on by a lack of vitamin B1 or thiamine. This deficiency leads to damage of the thalamus and hypothalamus, causing mental confusion, vision problems, and lack of muscle coordination.
Studies show that 80-90% of individuals with Wernicke encephalopathy will develop Korsakoff syndrome. Korsakoff syndrome can cause short-term memory loss and possible long-term memory loss.
If left untreated, the symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome can become potentially life-threatening at their worst and disabling for the individual at their best.
Alcohol’s Long-Term Effects
While many enjoy a drink here and there to celebrate or unwind, some people find themselves in a brutal battle with excessive long-term drinking. It can be hard to see the effects at the moment, but too much alcohol over an extended period can have many adverse effects.
Your organs and your brain may suffer significantly from long-term alcohol abuse. Being proactive and seeking help if you feel you have a problem can help stop these effects.
Alexandra Arcand writes and researches for the life insurance comparison site, QuickQuote.com. She understands the negative effects long-term alcohol abuse can have on a person and hopes to share her knowledge with others to bring awareness.