Overall, 9.2 million men and 5.3 million women struggle with an alcohol abuse disorder annually, although less than 8% receive help for their drinking problem. The long term effects of alcohol abuse are severe, as alcoholism causes physical dependency and can lead to problems like liver damage and cognitive issues. Alcohol is a commonly used, and legal, psychoactive substance. The prevalence and consumption of alcohol in the United States is widespread, as 55% of Americans drink monthly, and another 6.6% are heavy drinkers. Alcoholism is a progressive disease, and early treatment is essential to avoid the more serious long term effects of alcohol abuse.
The Long Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol is an addictive central nervous system depressant that causes your brain to release a pleasurable and overwhelming rush of neurotransmitters like GABA. Alcohol intoxication induces positive and relaxing effects, although consuming large amounts of alcohol can lead to lowered inhibitions, risk-taking behavior, and memory loss. While you can experience intense euphoria while drunk when intoxication ends, you can deal with a come-down effect that leaves you feeling depressed and anxious since the long term effects of alcohol abuse include major neurotransmitter imbalances. If you have an underlying mental health problem, the long term effects of alcohol use are more pronounced since alcohol can aggravate mental health symptoms. Alcohol abuse also can negatively impact your physical health. Since your liver is responsible for filtering impurities like ethanol, the main active ingredient in alcohol, long term effects of alcohol abuse, often includes liver damage. Other long term effects of alcohol abuse can include:
- Neurological problems, such as dementia
- Damage to your esophagus
- Stomach and digestive issues
- Nerve damage
Some people are also more prone to experiencing the negative long term effects of alcohol abuse. For example, women are more sensitive to alcohol and have more difficulty processing it. Therefore, women are more likely to deal with physical problems related to alcoholism than men.
How Alcoholism is Treated
To avoid long term effects of alcohol abuse, finding treatment when you first start exhibiting signs of alcoholism is important. Early signs of alcoholism can include:
- Drinking alone
- Blacking out when you drink
- Experiencing hangovers regularly
- Drinking when your first wake up
- Drinking more than you plan
- Inability to reduce or stop your alcohol use
Treatment options include both inpatient and outpatient programs. When you become physically dependent on alcohol, you must first deal with withdrawal symptoms. Entering a medically supervised detox program is typically the first step during recovery. It prevents you from dealing with potentially serious withdrawal symptoms. Both inpatient and outpatient programs utilize evidence-based and holistic treatments. Doing so ensures you learn how to cope with triggers and manage your symptoms during recovery.
If you’re concerned about the long term effects of alcohol dependency, chances are you’re struggling with alcoholism. Reaching out for help is the best way you can begin your recovery. To get started with treatment, or to find out more about your treatment options, contact us today.