Alcohol

22 Jan 2021 admin

THE HEALTH EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL ABUSE

Alcohol is one of the most widely consumed substances in the world. Canada is not exempted as an estimated 78.2 % of the population over the age of 15 reported drinking alcohol at least once in the past year. While drinking alcohol is considered normal and acceptable by most people, not enough emphasis is placed on the possible health effects of long-term alcohol consumption. Having a drink occasionally may have negligible effects on your health; however, in reality, not many people can stick to one drink once in a while. Many alcohol drinkers consume more than one standard drink when they take alcohol and often binge, especially when they drink socially or while out with friends. Alcohol abuse, also known as alcohol use disorder, is characterized by an unhealthy uncontrollable drinking behavior, which may include binge drinking and alcohol dependency. Generally, when you drink beyond the recommended low-risk alcohol use guidelines, you may be abusing alcohol.

Alcohol Abuse


According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction (CCSA), if you want to drink within the low-risk limits, you should consume no more than

  • Two (2) drinks a day, and ten (10) drinks a week if you are a woman.
  • Three (3) drinks a day, and 15 drinks a week if you are a man.

In Canada, a standard drink contains about 13.6g of pure alcohol. For reference, a standard drink could be:

  • 341 ml (12 oz) bottle of 5% alcohol beer, cider or cooler
  • 43 ml (1.5 oz) shot of 40% hard liquor (vodka, rum, whisky, gin etc.)
  • 142 ml (5oz) glass of 12% wine

Health Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse can have severe effects on your health, especially with long-term abuse. Some of these health effects are:

Liver Problems

One of your liver’s most important roles is detoxification, that is, removing harmful substances from your body. Alcohol is toxic to the body, and it is the job of your liver to flush it out. When you consume too much alcohol frequently, your liver cannot keep up and may get inflamed. This inflammation may lead to scarring of the liver, resulting in a condition called liver cirrhosis. Alcohol abuse also increases your chances of developing alcohol fatty liver, a situation where your liver’s metabolism of fats is impaired, and fats accumulate within the liver. With time, prolonged alcohol abuse will lead to liver damage, which can be a life-threatening condition. With the liver not working adequately, other organs may also begin to fail, which can lead to death. Most times, the damage would have already been done before symptoms surface, making it difficult to manage or treat.

Heart Problems

Excessive drinking can increase your blood pressure abnormally, putting you at risk of different cardiovascular problems. Some of these dangerous heart conditions caused by drinking are arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, and stroke. Also, when the fat metabolism function of the liver is impaired due to alcohol abuse, there are higher levels of fats and cholesterol in the body, predisposing heavy drinkers to heart disease. Women who drink have a higher chance of developing heart disease compared to men who drink. This may be because women absorb alcohol faster than men, and it takes a longer time to get out of their system, giving alcohol more than enough time to cause damage.

Digestive Problems

While this may not be immediately noticeable, continuous alcohol abuse can lead to problems with your gastrointestinal tract, leading to digestive problems. Alcohol can irritate and inflame your stomach lining, causing heartburn, acid reflux, and eventually ulcers. The effect on alcohol in your stomach can affect gastric secretion and emptying, which may also cause more digestive problems. Your body may find it harder to absorb essential nutrients like vitamin B12 and thiamine, leading to malnutrition. Alcohol consumption has also been linked to pancreatitis, where the pancreas is inflamed due to the build-up of digestive enzymes. A problem with your pancreas means that you may have issues with insulin production, predisposing you to diabetes.

Reduced Immunity

Alcohol consumption has been seen to reduce immunity levels in heavy drinkers. When you abuse alcohol, you reduce your body’s natural ability to fight off infections. A lower immunity level means you are vulnerable to different types of infections and can fall ill easily. Studies have shown that people who drink are more likely to contract tuberculosis and pneumonia than people who don’t drink.

Mental Health Problems

Alcohol abuse has damaging effects on your brain’s function. It affects how your brain communicates signals, which is why some of the immediate side effects of alcohol use include impaired cognitive ability, memory lapses, poor vision, and bad self-coordination. Continuous abuse may damage the way your brain looks and feels, predisposing you to long-term mental health problems like dementia and depression. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a brain disorder affecting memory, has also been linked to brain damage caused by prolonged alcohol abuse.

Cancer

Because of the damage alcohol does to different organs in your body, many types of cancers have been associated with alcohol abuse. Examples are liver cancer, esophageal cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and head and neck cancer. This risk of cancers is further heightened in people who drink and smoke tobacco as well. They have a higher chance of cancer of the respiratory tract and upper gastrointestinal tract.

Addiction

Long-term alcohol abuse can eventually lead to alcohol addiction, a disease where a person loses control of their will to consume alcohol. People with alcohol addiction have an uncontrollable urge to drink even though it’s causing damage to their bodies. Alcohol addiction affects every aspect of a person’s health and reduces their overall productivity.


Help is Available

Are you currently struggling with alcohol abuse? Hope is not lost. With timely treatment, you can recover and regain control of your life. Book a virtual consultation with a physician by visiting www.mapleaddictioncentres.ca