Long term effects of alcoholism

Long term effects of alcoholism

Alcoholism is devastating to your life, both physically and psychologically, whilst you are in the grips of it. However, it can also have long-term repercussions on your lifestyle, personal relationships and finances if it is not dealt with quickly.

Advice from the UK’s Chief Medical Officers recommends that men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, which works out to around 6 pints of beer or 7 glasses of wine. Drinking should be moderate, having one or two drinks a few times a week, rather than ‘saved up’ and binge drinking once or twice a week. Alcohol abuse significantly raises your chances of developing more than 60 conditions including alcohol dependence, brain damage and dementia, diabetes, liver cirrhosis and strokes.

There is a difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Alcohol abuse is actually more common than you might think, especially amongst young adults. If you are an alcohol abuser you will drink to get drunk and may allow your use of alcohol to affect your relationships, job or finances. However, continuing to abuse alcohol over time can trigger alcohol dependence, where you develop a compulsion to drink alcohol and a loss of control over your ability to stop drinking.

Once the body gets used to drinking in excess, short term physical withdrawal symptoms can occur when you are not drinking including:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Delirium
  • Seizures

These are some of the most common symptoms that alcoholics suffer when attempting to detox, the discomfort of which can make you give up early on. It is worth knowing about the longer-term physical effects of alcoholism, to spur you to complete your detox.

Long term physical effects

Excessive alcohol use over the years leads to a gradual ‘wearing down’ of your internal organs, and weakening of your immune system. Without a strong immune system you are vulnerable to illnesses and infections and may struggle to recover from colds and other viruses.

Research has shown that drinking alcohol makes you more vulnerable to certain cancers including:

  • Liver cancer
  • Mouth cancer
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Breast cancer
  • Bowel cancer

11,900 cases of cancer in the UK each year are attributed to alcohol use. Cutting down or cutting out alcohol altogether significantly cuts the risk of getting these types of cancer.

Long term alcohol abuse affects the whole body in different ways:

  • Heart. Excessive alcohol use raises your blood pressure, which puts a strain on heart and arteries and increases your chances of both heart attacks and strokes.
  • Liver. It takes the liver one hour to process one alcoholic drink. Chronic drinking means that the liver is constantly overloaded, which can lead to the destruction of liver cells and scarring of the liver (also known as cirrhosis).
  • Pancreas. Alcohol causes the pancreas to become inflamed, a condition called pancreatitis. Over the years, heavy drinking can lead to chronic pancreatitis, where the inflammation never goes down. This damage is irreversible and requires the sufferer to go on medication for the rest of their lives to help their bodies to process food and maintain blood sugar levels.
  • Brain. In the short term, alcoholism can lead to memory loss, fits, aggression and irrational behaviour. Over time, alcohol can actually impair the functioning of the brain, in such a way that cannot be undone. Many chronic drinkers have a thiamine deficiency, which can lead to a serious brain disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (WKS). The symptoms of this include long term problems with memory and learning, confusion, impaired muscle coordination and paralysis of eye nerves.
  • Fertility. Alcohol use is linked with infertility in both men and women, significantly lowering the chances of conceiving for men who drink heavily, and women who drink at all. It is suggested that couples trying to conceive quit drinking in order to boost their fertility, as the effects of alcohol are reversed almost immediately and the damage is not permanent. Alcohol is also linked with unprotected sex, which can lead to sexually transmitted infections which can permanently affect fertility.

Long term personal effects

  • Financial. When alcohol is the only thing that you are focused on it is easy to stop paying attention to your finances, getting into debt and running up bills.
  • Relationships. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and can lead you to say or do things that you later come to regret. Aggressive traits can also be brought out with excessive alcohol use and, subsequently, alcohol is a factor in around half of all domestic violence cases.
  • Unemployment. If excessive alcohol use leaks into your day to day life it can make you a liability in your workplace, affecting your relationships with staff and customers, and affecting your ability to do your job safely. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1994, employers have a legal obligation to respond to alcohol use and this makes it very likely that obvious alcoholism will cause you to lose your job.
  • Depression. Alcohol inhibits the functions of your central nervous system, affecting serotonin and dopamine, two of the ‘happy hormones’ that your brain makes in order to regulate your mood, which can lead to depression. Depression can be treated with medication, but alcohol also interferes with the chemicals used to treat depression, so it won’t be effective if you are drinking.

Getting help

Cassiobury Court is there to help you to detox from alcohol safely as well as develop coping skills for life in the outside world. We have a qualified team of staff, boasting a range of specialisms and skills, who can help you to put together a tailored recovery plan that will work for you. You’ll also be given a dedicated follow-up treatment plan to ensure that life in the outside world is easier to cope with.

You might need to stay for anything from 30 days right up to 90 days depending on your needs. This time frame allows you time to detox properly and take advantage of the excellent range of psychological, wellbeing and social treatments we offer to get you back onto the right path. Crucially, you’ll be given a psychiatric evaluation on entry to the clinic so that we can identify any underlying issues that need to be addressed, getting you on to the firmest possible footing for when you get back to your everyday life.

We can be reached on 01923 369161 or you can text HELP to 83222