Long Term Impacts of Heavy Drinking
How Long-Term Alcohol Use Impacts Health
While alcohol is a legal substance, it’s vital never to underestimate the long-term health impacts of heavy drinking. As it is a central nervous system depressant that affects brain and body function, alcohol produces both short and long-term issues that can affect the quality of life and health in people who drink moderately to heavily.
Alcohol abuse is defined as:
- Binge drinking: consuming large amounts of alcohol at one time – for men, this is five drinks in two hours, and for women, it is four drinks in two hours
- Heavy drinking: two drinks a day, or fourteen drinks a week for men, and one drink per day or seven per week for women
Addiction is what happens when your abuse of alcohol develops into a problem, affecting your ability to live a healthy and fulfilling life. The long-term effects of alcohol abuse can include financial, work, and relationship issues, as well as health concerns.
Alcohol and Inflammation
Alcohol causes chemicals called “cytokines” to increase in the body, and these are chemicals that cause chronic inflammation. Along with cytokines increases, the stress hormone cortisol is also much more present in heavy drinkers than in those who do not drink. Cortisol is also linked to organ inflammation, which can cause long-term issues such as scarring, pain, and even organ failure if untreated.
Alcohol and the Liver
The liver is the organ in your body responsible for processing alcohol by breaking it down. The alcohol the liver cannot break down remains in the bloodstream, which is how blood alcohol levels are tested to measure how drunk a person is.
When you drink for a long time or binge drink alcohol, the liver can become damaged, and the cells become inflamed as they work overtime, causing alcoholic hepatitis. Continuing drinking can result in fatty deposits on the liver (a “fatty liver”), and eventually, the liver will become scarred over, a condition called “cirrhosis.” The scarred liver tissue can no longer process toxins in the body, and it cannot heal, so stopping drinking is imperative, as liver failure and death can occur.
Alcohol and Brain Health
Short-term effects of alcohol on the brain include slow functioning and thoughts, making the person feel like the world is happening in slow motion. Long-term, alcohol can permanently damage brain cells and lower brain mass, physically shrinking the brain.
The substance also causes nerve damage in the brain and leads to vitamin deficiencies that cause two neurological conditions:
- Wernicke’s Encephalopathy
- Korsakoff’s Psychosis
When these two issues present together, they can create a state of mental confusion and physical coordination issues and even lead to death. Similar problems occur because the liver can no longer filter the bloodstream properly, allowing toxins to enter the brain.
Alcohol’s Impact on the Heart and Cardiovascular System
Although it is true that having a glass of red wine every once in a while can promote heart health, the long-term health impacts of heavy drinking can:
- Cause high blood pressure
- Increase your risk of heart disease
- Increase your risk of peripheral arterial disease
- Increase your risk of hemorrhagic stroke
- Raise triglyceride levels, straining the heart
- Weaken the heart, causing cardiomyopathy, which causes premature death.
Alcohol and the Endocrine System
Alcohol abuse can cause changes to the production of hormones and the endocrine system, including:
- Causing changes to the “stress axis” part of the endocrine system, which is the part of the system that controls the processing of psychological and physical stress. Drinking raises cortisol levels, causing the body to react more strongly to stress triggers than usual.
- Causing abnormal thyroid functions, which can cause weight gain and mood changes due to alcohol’s effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis.
- Causing issues with your sleep cycle and circadian rhythm due to harm to the endocrine system, resulting in poor sleep, irritability, lethargy, and depressed mood.
Alcohol and the Immune System
Long-term drinking can cause low levels of vitamins and minerals in the body, including iron and vitamin B. It can also reduce the number of immune system cells in the body that would normally fight off infections, making you more susceptible to illness and other issues.
Alcohol’s Impact on the Reproductive System
When it comes to the reproductive system, excessive alcohol consumption can:
- lower sperm production
- decreased libido
- cause abnormalities in reproductive hormones
The reproductive hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone are also crucial for other body functions, and so these abnormalities can lead to issues like:
- Poor memory
- Bone loss
- Muscle atrophy
- Mood changes
Alcohol and Musculoskeletal Health
Alcohol can make musculoskeletal issues much worse due to the hormonal and overall health issues it can create in the body. It can:
- Exacerbate osteoporosis, a bone-loss issue that can put you at risk for serious injury
- Interfere with calcium and vitamin D levels, which are needed for a healthy skeletal system
- Change testosterone levels, further worsening bone loss, especially in older adults
Other Impacts of Long-Term Alcohol Abuse
There is a connection between alcohol use and certain cancers. There are many social side effects to drinking heavily that one must consider as well. You may begin to forego your basic hygiene and miss out on important events, activities, and responsibilities in favor of drinking as the alcohol takes over your life, which can destroy relationships, cause you to lose your job, and cause financial issues.
Alcohol Rehab and Detox at Muse Treatment in Los Angeles
There is a direct correlation between heavy drinking and poor overall health, and the best way to stop the long-term health impacts of heavy drinking is to connect with an alcohol rehab clinic and find out what your options are. At Muse Treatment in Los Angeles, we offer:
Medically assisted detox program
Our medical detox program at Muse Treatment has been created to help you stop drinking without having to suffer through the discomfort, pain, and cravings that alcohol detox can make. We also have medical interventions to keep you safe if more severe withdrawal symptoms present themselves, including prescription medications and 24-hour medical care available if you need it.
Dual diagnosis treatments
Dual diagnosis is a program in which mental health issues are treated simultaneously as addiction. These issues usually stem from the exact underlying causes and can affect one another, hiding symptoms of one issue or exacerbating symptoms of the other. With a complete dual diagnosis treatment program, we can stop the cycle and help you move forward with both aspects under control.
Highly trained staff
We will never surprise you or lie to you about your progress, and through open communication and collaboration, we will ensure you are a part of all decision-making processes. The goal is for us to earn and maintain your trust so you can relax into your treatment, knowing that you are safe, without the risk of additional traumatization. You are an intelligent and complex person who deserves respect and dignity in all aspects of your care, and we will treat you as such.
Inpatient alcohol rehab
Inpatient rehab is a program where you move into our safe and sober facility full-time away to give you a break from your usual hangouts, drinking spots, and life stresses. You will live in our care for 30 to 90 days, attending therapy, groups, and other programs in a structured schedule for approximately six hours per day. We provide comfortable accommodations, healthy and fresh food, exercise equipment, games, and movies. Inpatient rehab is best for those with a high level of addiction, those with co-occurring mental health conditions receiving dual diagnosis treatment, and those with a history of relapsing.
Outpatient rehab options
Outpatient rehab is a varied and customizable type of rehab. You do not live full-time inside our facility but come back in for treatment, therapy, and other sober activities. At Muse Treatment, we have:
- Our Partial Hospitalization Program: the PHP is a day/night program that includes housing and treatment six days a week. You will receive a minimum of 25 hours per week of treatment, with full days of groups, therapy, life skills programs, and more.
- Our Intensive Outpatient Program: the IOP is a minimum of nine hours per week of treatment and includes access to local 12-step groups and other sober activities. Most patients live at home during IOP, returning to their jobs and other responsibilities and accessing treatment in the evenings and weekends.
Ongoing recovery support
Muse Treatment offers continued care for as long as you want to remain connected to our sober community. We provide support in many ways, from continued treatments and appointments with doctors, other professional caregivers, and life coaches. We provide one hour a week of therapy, and you can join our sober outings and gatherings if you wish.
Call us at (800) 426-1818 today to find out more about Muse Treatment and how we can help you stop drinking in a safe and effective alcohol addiction treatment program. We can answer all your questions and help you get started on your road to recovery or if you need more details on the long-term health impacts of heavy drinking.