Official figures state that as many as 14 million individuals across America abuse alcohol monthly but, with much more drinking happening behind closed doors, experts believe that true figures for addiction are most likely higher than even that. Certainly, further studies reveal that as many as 1-in-4 of us engage in regular binge drinking behaviors that well exceed the recommended amounts (one drink a day for women and two for men).
This consumption being in large part due to the accessibility of alcohol, this often surprising addiction is typically left to escalate without the necessary treatment due to a lack of understanding about the impact drinking can have on our bodies. In fact, outside of understanding the feel-good sensation that we get from drinking (which comes from a rush of a neurotransmitter called GABA), few of us think twice about the repercussions of even intermittent alcohol binges. Unfortunately, despite its prevalence in modern society, alcohol is a substance that can cause substantial bodily damage, a fact that we’re going to prove by delving a little deeper into precisely what happens to your body when you use alcohol for even short periods.
The Short-Term Bodily Impact Of Binge Drinking
While many of us assume that drinking is only a problem if it’s extreme for extended periods, worrying levels of bodily risk have also been noted from even short periods of binge drinking, and not just because of inhibited risk perceptions. Alcohol also directly impacts our bodies during any heavy drinking session in the following ways:
- Coordination problems and slurred speech: GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that can effectively block certain brain signals, most commonly to reduce stress. Drinking alcohol enhances these inhibitory capabilities, causing sluggish movements, slow reaction times, and coordination problems that can result in sometimes serious falls.
- Temporary insomnia: While we falsely assume that drinking can help us to sleep, the opposite is true. Admittedly, most of us will spend more time in bed after a night of drinking, but alcohol also works to disrupt natural sleep rhythms, thus preventing us from reaching the deep stage of sleep where actual rejuvenation is possible.
- Dehydration: Hangovers after heavy binging sessions are often largely caused by dehydration. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, thus causing the body to remove fluids from the bloodstream and renal system. The fact that most people also fail to drink enough water when drinking alcohol works with this fact to cause headaches, nausea, and other signs of dehydration the next day.
- Poisoning or death: Alcohol poisoning kills as many as 2,200 people in the US each year, and is caused by high levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Alcohol-related deaths can also occur due to loss of consciousness and the suppression of crucial reflexes including gagging and breathing.
Your Body In The Long-Term
Typically, individuals who require treatment for alcohol addiction experience both the short-term bodily impacts of alcohol as mentioned and often worrying long-term effects such as:
- Increased risk of heart problems: Studies have shown that alcohol abuse of any kind can increase the risk of heart-related problems like heart attacks by as much as 40% due to the sometimes extensive damage that alcohol use can cause to the cardiovascular system.
- Weight gain: While a medium glass of wine can contain as many as 228 calories, alcohol is entirely devoid of nutritional value. Our bodies will prioritize the removal of these so-called empty calories, thus leaving other crucial processes, including the burning of fat reserves, to be overlooked and thus leading to weight gain.
- Digestive issues: Alcohol consumption can irritate the lining of the stomach, hence why drinking can cause bloating, nausea, and sickness. Over long periods, this irritation can destroy the lining of the stomach, increasing the risks of internal bleeding and stomach cancer among other conditions.
- Liver problems: By altering chemicals that typically remove scarring on crucial organs such as the liver, long-term alcohol consumption allows scar tissue to build on the liver which, over time, can result in liver failure and serious, often fatal liver conditions including cirrhosis.
Treatment Offers The Best Path to Health
Whether you or a loved one have been drinking heavily for years or months, bodily damage can be extreme and even fatal. Recovery with the help of a professional team is essential for ensuring long-term health and prospects, and it’s never too early to start on that journey. Simply contact us today to talk about your options or those of someone you’re worried about.