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As the infographic indicates, after alcohol enters the bloodstream, it wreaks havoc on the entire body, including the five major organs essential for human survival: the brain, heart, kidneys, liver and lungs. In the brain, alcohol damages the cerebellum, the site controlling balance and coordination, and the cerebral cortex, responsible for thinking, memory and learning. Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with alcoholic cardiomyopathy, characterized by potentially dangerous changes to the left ventricle such as dilation and increased mass. Alcohol impairs the ability of the kidneys to regulate the volume and composition of fluid and electrolytes, and disrupts the hormonal control mechanisms controlling kidney function. Alcohol can destroy liver cells, inhibiting the organ’s ability to break down and remove toxins, thereby leading to liver failure and death. Alcohol weakens the lung’s immune system and causes fatty deposits, increasing the risk of pneumonia and life-threatening acute respiratory distress.

The truth is that alcohol exacts a sad and costly toll on society. The infographic tells only part of the story. An estimated 2,200 people lose their lives to alcohol poisoning every year in the U.S. Forty times that number, or 88,000 people, lose their lives to alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol abuse the fourth-leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. In 2015, 10,265 people were killed in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal blood-alcohol concentration of .08 or greater.

Alcohol affects the organs, immune system and very skin we are in, but its impact doesn’t end there. About 40,000 infants are born every year with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), which are entirely preventable, yet a leading cause of intellectual disability, birth defects and developmental disorders. Fetal alcohol syndrome, the most severe problem in the spectrum, costs the U.S. $5.4 billion annually. The overall price of excessive drinking rose to $249 billion in 2010, with 72% attributed to lost workplace productivity.

Brain Esophogus Lungs Lungs Heart Blood Bones and Joints Liver Sotmach Pancreas Kidneys Kidneys Reproductive System Skin Family Work School
Click on the glowing circles
glow
to see the impact on that part of the body.

Brain

  • Memory loss, blackouts, and exaggerated states of emotion
  • Problems with coordination and muscle movement
  • Depressed nerve centers in hypothalamus that control sexual arousal and performance
  • Affected heart rate, temperature, and breathing; can lead to unconsciousness and death
  • Brain shrinkage
  • Thiamine deficiency, which can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (mental confusion, paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes, and difficulty with muscle coordination) and Korsakoff’s psychosis (persistent learning and memory problems)
  • Learning difficulties
  • Slowing of neurogenesis, of the growth of new brain cells
  • Sleep impairment, as alcohol decreases REM sleep and sleep apnea
  • Delirium tremens (a state of confusion accompanied by trembling and vivid hallucinations) from alcohol withdrawal
  • Peripheral neuropathy, leading to a loss of sensation

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Esophagus

  • Increased risk of cancer in esophagus, larynx, and mouth
  • Vomiting from excessive drinking can tear the esophagus

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Skin

  • Dehydration of skin, which can lead to broken or distended capillaries, especially over the nose and cheeks
  • Widening of blood vessels near the surface of the skin, causing a loss of heat from the body
  • Depletion of vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy complexion

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Heart

  • Heart disease and heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Enlarged heart (cardiomyopathy)
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Coronary artery disease

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Blood

  • Increased blood clotting abnormalities and anemia
  • Susceptibility to bleeding and bruising
  • Impaired white blood cell function, lowering immune system

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Bones & Joints

  • Leakage of calcium from the bones, which can lead to osteoporosis
  • Increased joint inflammation related to arthritis, causing more pain
  • Muscle atrophy, causing sharp muscle pain and weakness

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Lungs

  • Increased fluid accumulation in the lungs
  • Pneumonia, lung collapse, and other pulmonary infections

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Kidneys

  • Kidney failure, which affects regulation of fluids and electrolytes in body

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Liver

  • Liver failure
  • Fat accumulation in liver cells
  • Hepatitis (inflammation and destruction of liver cells
  • Cirrhosis (scarring and shrinkage of the liver)
  • Hepatic encephalopathy, a serious brain disorder that can cause changes in sleep patterns, mood, personality, shortened attention span, anxiety and depression, and problems with coordination such as shaking or flapping hands (called asterixis). Some patients can slip into a coma, which can be fatal.

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Pancreas

  • Reduced amount of digestive enzymes secreted by the pancreas, which inflames and leaks digestive enzymes that attack the pancreas

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Stomach

  • Ulcers
  • Gastritis (inflammation of stomach lining)
  • Acid reflux
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Risk of stomach cancer
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Hypoglycemia (chronic low blood sugar)
  • Calories in alcohol make chronic drinkers less hungry, leading to malnutrition

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Reproductive System

  • Decreased sperm production and testosterone in men due to decreased sex hormone secretion
  • Decreased estrogen metabolism in the liver, which boosts estrogen levels and can contribute to menstrual irregularities and infertility

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Family

  • Domestic abuse, child abuse, and incest
  • Marital conflict which can lead to separation or divorce
  • Financial insecurity due to job loss or money spent on alcohol
  • Drinking during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome and other negative effects on the fetus
  • Children of alcoholics often have low self-esteem, chronic depression, fear of abandonment, feelings of guilt and helplessness, problems in school, and more
  • Adult children of alcoholics often have problems with depression, aggression, impulsive behavior, intimacy, substance abuse, eating disorders, and establishing healthy relationships.
  • Denial and enabling (family members may allow the drinking to continue rather than deal with the problem, ultimately making it worse)

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Work

  • Accidents on the job
  • Repeatedly calling in sick due to hangovers
  • Chronic tardiness
  • Poor quality of work and inability to concentrate on tasks
  • Job loss

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School

  • Missed classes and schoolwork, leading to falling grades
  • Increased risk of social problems
  • Adolescent drinkers score worse than non-drinkers on vocabulary, general information, memory, memory retrieval, and more
  • Risk of injury and drinking and driving
  • Increased risk of physical and sexual assault

Call 844-876-5568 to speak confidentially with a Promises Recovery Advisor.


Sources:

  1. http://www.menshealth.com/health/your-body-on-booze
  2. https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/diseases/alcohol-and-heart-disease/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2365733/
  4. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh21-1/84.pdf
  5. http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/alcohol/
  6. https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/why-drinking-too-much-may-cause-lung-disease-070714.html
  7. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  8. https://responsibility.org/get-the-facts/research/statistics/drunk-driving-fatalities/
  9. https://www.nofas.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Fact-sheet-what-everyone-should-know_old_chart-new-chart1.pdf
  10. https://www.cdc.gov/features/costsofdrinking/