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How does alcohol affect the body?

It’s an all-too-familiar feeling: the effects of alcohol on the body. Waking up to a blindingly bright light, a throbbing headache, eyes that appear to be sealed shut and a serious feeling of regret. Anyone who has ever had a hangover knows how uncomfortable the after-effects of alcohol are, and it almost never becomes more apparent than at this dreaded moment how harmful alcohol is to the body. Ask for help at a alcohol and drug treatment program

The fact is, however, that even moderate consumption of alcohol can cause a wide variety of harmful physical ailments. You don’t have to close the bar every night to see how alcohol can slowly (or not so slowly) undermine vital body functions. It is insidious how the effects of alcohol damage practically everything a person needs to survive, organ by organ.

The brain

Alcohol devastates cognition and can make one clumsy and mentally slow. Attention span is heavily influenced by alcohol, which can contribute to concentration and multitasking problems.

It becomes harder to both learn new information and remember old information – something that can result in failing school or being fired from work for poor performance. Studies have shown that alcohol consumption reduces the volume of the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in learning and remembering.

The heart

Alcohol consumption leads to heart disease, which affects nearly half of all Americans and kills one person every 36 seconds. The heart muscle itself can be damaged, possibly irreparably.

The likelihood of having a stroke, high blood pressure, or an irregular heartbeat increases when you consume alcohol. The heart could even fail completely, resulting in death or a possible complication of the above conditions.

The liver

The liver is responsible for clearing toxins and infections from the body. It also plays a vital role in digestion and has an almost miraculous ability to heal and regenerate itself over time.

Drinking too much alcohol can destroy the liver’s ability to grow back after damage. Some of the effects alcohol has on the body are alcoholic fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis of the liver. According to the UK National Health Service, “a person who has alcohol-related cirrhosis and does not stop drinking has less than a 50% chance of living at least 5 years”.

Perhaps most terrifyingly, cirrhosis of the liver may appear with few or no symptoms, meaning many drinkers may not know the harm they are doing to themselves until it is too late.

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The emergence of diseases

Alcohol causes cancer. These include cancers of the head and neck, esophagus, liver, breasts, colon, and rectum. According to the American Journal of Public Health, 3.5% of all cancer deaths in the US in 2009 were associated with alcohol.

Another of the effects alcohol has on the body is immune system damage, which means the body is less prepared to fight off infections, including diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol consumption related to COVID-19 is likely to increase health risks when a person becomes infected. In fact, recent substance use disorder increases your risk of contracting COVID-19 by eight times.

Risk of accident

Alcohol doesn’t just destroy the body from the inside. It can also cause fatal damage from an alcohol-related accident. The WHO reports that alcohol consumption increases the risk of dying in a car accident, drowning, or fall. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol was responsible for 28% of all American road deaths in 2016.

The Effects of Alcohol on the Body: The Price Paid

Alcohol consumption and abuse takes a heavy toll – it has been shown to damage almost every organ in the body.

Drinkers who feel “a bit slow” after a night of throwing back, or those who experience mysterious chest or stomach pains after drinking, may not be able to imagine things. It is entirely possible that you will feel your body collapse in real time. And as seen with cirrhosis of the liver, some of the worst effects may not show any symptoms at all.

Even if the organs survive the toxins ingested, the risk of dying from an alcohol-related accident is simply too high to be justified. Therefore, if you or a loved one cannot stop drinking, it is vitally important to get help now, not later. The body can recover from many of the corrosive damage caused by alcohol, but time is of the essence.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Effects of alcohol on the body. Retrieved July 26, 2021 from

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