When looking at how alcohol affects the body, the effects that elicit pleasure cannot be denied. People tend to feel happy, more relaxed and confident and can socialize more comfortably when they start drinking. It also becomes easy to forget about how alcohol may be affecting one negatively. Every single drink increases the negative effects of alcohol consumption. The more you drink, the more the damage. Here is a list of some negative short-term effects of alcohol:
- Memory becomes impaired
- Poor coordination
- Motor functions impaired
- Cloudy thinking
- Impaired memory
- Slow reflexes
Not only is the body “harmed”, there are many other effects to be aware of. Here are some additional damaging “effects of alcohol”:
- Domestic violence
- Societal withdrawal
- More unprotected sex
- Increased risk of car accidents
The key thing to keep in mind is that excessive drinking affects nearly every part of the human body. Let’s look at the truth of how the body is affected.
The Effects Of Alcohol On Various Parts Of The Body
From the moment you take your first sip of alcohol, nearly 33% of it gets absorbed into the bloodstream through the lining of the stomach. The rest is absorbed at a slower pace through the small intestine into the blood. At this point the tissues in the body are affected since the membrane of tissue cells are very permeable. The BAL or blood alcohol level increases when alcohol consumption is more than the body can process. Things like your age, weight, body composition, gender, general health, and also any drugs or medication in the system affect how quickly the blood alcohol level (BAL) increases.
Basically the presence of any alcohol in the blood will affect the body, and the more alcohol the risk increases as the blood alcohol level increases.
It is generally recommended for men to consume a maximum of 2 drinks per day and women to consume a maximum of one drink per day. Consuming more than this recommendation is considered to be problematic drinking. Binge drinking would be five or more drinks per day for men and four or more drinks per day for women.
Get ready. Let’s have a look at how alcohol affects the different parts of the body from the first sip of alcohol.
It is difficult to even understand the amount of damage that is done to the brain when one consumes alcohol. Temporary amnesia is common, when people forget those little moments from the wild night of drinking. If you continue with this habit it can lead to further damage to the brain in the form of a seizure causing, speech and vision affecting, memory-impairing disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS). Your eyes will twitch a lot, you won’t be able to remember new things and will find yourself mumbling without realizing it.
Drinking also releases too much dopamine and GABA which are naturally occurring neurotransmitters that are responsible for calming the brain down (GABA) and feeling pleasure (dopamine). The result is:
- Increase in heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Night terrors,
- Increased depression
- Increased aggression
- High blood pressure
Endorphins which are similar to neurotransmitters are also released when one drinks alcohol but their job is to carry pain relieving chemicals as opposed to “messages”. They are normally released as a result of rewarding actions like exercise, eating and sexual activity. When they are releases in excess the result is lower testosterone and sex drive, infertility, depression and fatigue. Drinking also releases endorphins, which are similar to neurotransmitters except they carry natural pain-reducing chemicals instead of ‘messages’. Endorphins are normally released upon rewarding actions, such as exercise, sexual activity, eating, etc. Too much endorphin release can cause many complications including depression, lower sex drive, low testosterone, infertility, and extreme fatigue.
The liver gets the brunt of it when you drink. Since alcohol is metabolized in the liver, if you consume more than one drink every hour the liver converts alcohol into cancer causing, toxic acetaldehyde. Let’s look at is from the beginning and see how alcohol destroys the liver. Drinking excessively causes fat in the liver which clogs it and impairs liver function. It can also lead to fatty liver disease. A liver that becomes has become inflamed (alcoholic hepatitis) is quite common and this can lead to Cirrhosis of the liver. This occurs when damage to the cells of the liver is so severe that they are not able to regenerate. If alcohol consumption continues at this point, liver failure occurs and is fatal. Cancer of the liver is also a common occurrence if one continues to drink when they have Cirrhosis of the liver.
Research shows that even one drink a day can increase the risk of getting breast cancer. This is because consuming alcohol increases estrogen levels as well as other hormones that are linked to certain types of breast cancer. This is confirmed by the Non-profit website Breastcancer.org, which claims that “Research consistently shows that drinking alcohol beverages can increase levels of estrogen and other hormones associated with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.” The risk for women increases by 15% with the consumption of only 3 drinks a week. In younger women (under the age of 15) the risk is 3 times more!
Consuming alcohol has two negative effects on the stomach. The first is an increase in the production of acid which can lead to gastritis and the second the stomach lining becomes inflames and irritated. This can lead to bleeding of the stomach and ulcers and if the stomach lining tears it can result in anaemia. If you experience pain in your stomach after drinking it may indicate a gallbladder issue called chronic cholecystitis.
Inflammation of the pancreas also known as pancreatitis is the result of excessive drinking greatly increases the risk of developing cancer of the pancreas. Since the pancreas produces insulin, damage to the organ can result in diabetes.
Heavy alcohol consumption results many adverse effects on the heart. The heart muscle can droop and stretch causing cardiomyopathy. Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) is another common problem as is the inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis). The other thing to note is that the consumption of alcohol also raises blood lipids as well as blood pressure. This puts people who drink alcohol at a higher risk for stroke, raised cholesterol, heart attack and hypertension.
Another area that is adversely affected by heavy drinking is the lungs. Heavy drinkers tend to have more lung infections and suffer from pneumonia. They also are more likely to have collapsed lungs. Vomiting after excessive drinking can also lead to choking if vomit gets into the lungs.
High blood pressure is also a common problem for heavy drinkers and over time this often leads to chronic kidney disease.
Heavy drinking can cause infertility in women and impotence and lowered sex drive/libido in men. Also, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause severe damage to the foetus.
It is important to take into consideration the caloric content of alcohol since the calories per drink are high and can add up quickly. For example 4 pints of lager and an average bottle of wine contain about 600-650 calories.
The skin is a good indicator of health and since your body becomes dehydrated when you consume alcohol you skin will become dry. Excessive drinking also dilates blood vessels making the skin appear to be blotchy and red.
Consuming alcohol excessively or over extended periods can cause the growth of tiny benign tumours known as adenomas in the colon. Alcohol consumption, whether excessive or long-term or both, causes what are known as adenomas in the colon. They can grow larger into polyps which can lead to cancer.
Since heavy drinking causes bones to deteriorate at a more rapid rate, there is an increased risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. This is because alcohol causes a diuretic effect and calcium is leached out of bones. Since the bones become weaker they are more susceptible to becoming fractured.
The Central Nervous System
The central nervous system is also affected by alcohol consumption and make short term effects like blurry vision, slurred speech, poor memory, muscle weakness and reduced reaction time are common. Heavy drinking can further lead to cell damage and result in neuropathy which causes the hands and feet to feel burning, pain, weakness and even numbness
Mental Health Problems
While it may seem like drinking alcohol helps people cope with difficult emotions or situations, or even reduces anxiety, in fact the opposite is actually true. The fact is that alcohol is linked to many mental health problems like schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety, depression, more risky behaviour as well as suicide.
According to The Mental Health Foundation 70% of men who commit suicide drink alcohol prior to the act and 65% of suicides are linked to heavy consumption of alcohol. Even among young people who commit suicide, one third of them are intoxicated.
Anxiety and stress among heavy drinkers is common due to poor sleeping patterns, a lack of deep sleep and insomnia.
Other Effects Of Alcohol
Since the parts of the brain that control judgement, coordination, emotions, behaviour and concentration are affected when you drink (particularly binge drinking) there is an increased risk of you becoming a victim of crime, domestic violence, rape, mugging and assault.
In addition you increase the risk of performing poorly at work and losing your job, having road accidents or being involved in other accidents (falls, starting fires etc.).
So, all in all, alcohol consumption is not body-friendly. To the mind some of the effects may be fun, the body suffers in many ways. Science is not completely clear on the effect of hangovers and hangovers usually involve having blackouts which are really small amnesia episodes. Also, over 10 types of cancers are linked to excessive drinking and alcohol poisoning is very common, making alcohol consumption a poor choice if one wants to support their body and health positively.