Long Term Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol affects more than just driving!
Alcohol is a depressant that affects your vision, coordination, reaction time, multitasking ability, judgment, and decision-making. As you might already know, the short term effects of alcohol on driving can be detrimental. But drinking alcohol, especially in large quantities for long periods of time, can have many negative long term effects on your body and mind, including bran damage, cancer, liver issues, weight gain, sexual problems, etc.
Binge drinking can cause blackouts, memory loss and anxiety. Long-term drinking can result in permanent brain damage, serious mental health problems and alcohol dependence or alcoholism. Teenager’s brains are more vulnerable because their brain is still developing during their teenage years. Alcohol can damage parts of the brain, affecting behaviour and the ability to learn and remember.
Drinking alcohol is the second biggest risk factor for cancers of the mouth and throat (smoking is the biggest). People who develop cirrhosis of the liver (often caused by too much alcohol) can develop liver cancer.
Heart and circulation
Alcohol can cause high blood pressure (hypertension), which increases the risk of:
- having a heart attack or stroke
- developing some types of dementia.
It also weakens heart muscles, which can affect the lungs, liver, brain and other body systems, and also cause heart failure. Binge drinking and drinking heavily over longer periods can cause the heart to beat irregularly (arrhythmia) and has been linked to cases of sudden death.
People who drink a lot of alcohol have more lung infections, are more likely to suffer collapsed lungs and can be more likely to get pneumonia. When a person vomits as a result of drinking alcohol, choking can occur if the vomit gets sucked back into their lungs.
Drinking too much alcohol initially causes fat deposits to develop in the liver. Continue excessive drinking will cause the liver to become inflamed, causing alcoholic hepatitis, which can result in liver failure and death. Excessive alcohol can permanently scar and damage the liver, resulting in liver cirrhosis and an increased risk of liver cancer.
Drinking above recommended limits can lead to stomach ulcers, internal bleeding and cancer. Alcohol can cause the stomach to become inflamed (gastritis), which can prevent food from being absorbed and increase the risk of cancer.
Heavy or prolonged use of alcohol can cause inflammation of the pancreas. This can be very painful causing vomiting, fever and weight loss which can be fatal.
Heavy drinking may result in colon ulcers and colon cancer. It also affects your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and vitamins.
Heavy drinking can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure – a leading cause of chronic kidney disease.
In men: Excessive drinking leads to impotence (lowered libido/sex drive) and infertility.
In women: Excessive drinking leads to infertility.
Drinking alcohol when pregnant can seriously damage the development of the unborn baby.
Alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. As a result, your bones become weak and thin (osteoporosis).
Alcohol is high in calories and the alcohol in a drink contains almost as many calories as fat. The average bottle of wine contains 600 calories while four pints of average strength lager contain 640. The recommended daily calorie intake of an adult is 2000 calories.
Alcohol dehydrates your body and your skin. It also widens blood vessels, causing your skin to look red or blotchy. Yikes!
Binge drinking makes you lose your inhibitions and affects your judgement. This may make you less likely to use a condom, which will increase your risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as chlamydia, HIV or hepatitis. It can also lead to an unplanned pregnancy.
People may think that alcohol helps them cope with difficult situations and emotions, and that it reduces stress or relieves anxiety, but alcohol is in fact associated with a range of mental health problems including depression, anxiety, risk-taking behaviour, personality disorders and schizophrenia.
Alcohol has also been linked to suicide. The Mental Health Foundation reports that:
- 65% of suicides have been linked to excessive drinking;
- 70% of men who take their own life drink alcohol before doing so;
- almost one third of suicides among young people take place while the person is intoxicated.
Excessive drinking can disrupt normal sleeping patterns, resulting in insomnia and a lack of restful sleep, which can contribute to stress and anxiety.
Other Effects of Alochol
Alcohol affects the parts of your brain that control judgement, concentration, coordination, behaviour and emotions. If you binge drink, you may be at greater risk of:
- becoming a victim of crime, (rape, domestic violence, mugging or assault);
- being involved in anti-social or criminal behaviour, (fights, domestic violence, vandalism or theft);
- having an accident, (road accident, fall, accident at work or accidental fire);
- losing your job, (repeated absence or poor performance);
- damaging relationships with family or friends.