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health risks of alcohol
November 12, 2021

Organs and Systems Damaged by Alcohol

Most people who enter treatment after years of sustained alcohol abuse have extensive work ahead of them to rebuild damaged relationships, repair their finances and regain their mental, physical and emotional well-being. 

Many people are aware that drinking brings about a cascade of negative repercussions, but feel compelled to continue abusing alcohol in search of short-term relief from their emotions. However, you must ask yourself whether alcohol’s brief feel-good effects are worth the toll drinking is taking on your body. Health risks of alcohol include damage to the following organs and systems.

1. Brain

Addiction is a complicated disease involving numerous factors, one of which is how your brain chemistry changes in the presence of alcohol and other drugs. A healthy brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters that create a sense of joy and fulfillment when you do something you love, like playing with your pet or listening to music. However, frequent exposure to alcohol alters your brain’s natural reward system, making it increasingly challenging to derive pleasure from anything other than drinking. 

Fortunately, the same plasticity that allows your brain to rewire itself in response to substance misuse also means you can heal this damage in recovery. Evidence-based methods like cognitive behavioral therapy help you unlearn bad habits and replace them with positive ones. 

2. Immune System

Among all the other psychological and physical health risks it causes, drug abuse significantly undermines your immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness. The damage to your immune system is not necessarily from the alcohol itself, but from its corollary problems such as dehydration, fatigue, loneliness, chronic stress, sleep deprivation and malnutrition. In its compromised state, your immune system will have a much harder time defending your body from any viruses you might encounter, including the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Alcoholism may result in health risks including autoimmune diseases, which occur when the body turns on itself and attacks healthy tissues. Long-term alcohol abuse can also impair your white blood cells’ ability to function, increasing your risk of developing life-threatening diseases like cancer.

3. Liver

Your liver is primarily responsible for metabolizing toxic substances such as alcohol and processing them out of your body. This organ has an incredible ability to repair itself, but not in the presence of prolonged alcohol abuse. Health risks associated with alcohol include liver diseases like cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis, which may cause you to need a liver transplant.

4. Digestive System

Frequent alcohol consumption also affects your digestive health by damaging the cells lining the esophagus and stomach and leading to inflammation. Alcohol inhibits your digestive system’s ability to absorb vital nutrients, which is one reason many chronic drinkers eventually suffer from malnutrition even when they typically eat a balanced diet. Alcohol abuse can also lead to frequent diarrhea and constipation.   

5. Pancreas

The pancreas is a large gland located in the abdominal cavity directly behind the stomach. It plays primary roles in your digestion and blood sugar regulation. Habitual alcohol consumption links to a painful, potentially fatal inflammatory condition called pancreatitis. This illness causes digestive enzymes to become active while they are still in the pancreas, essentially digesting the pancreatic cells.

6. Skin

As your body’s largest organ, your skin plays a protective role in shielding you from environmental pollutants and UV rays. Drinking alcohol affects your skin in various ways, including dark undereye circles, rosacea and a bacterial infection called cellulitis. The dehydration associated with heavy drinking can also prematurely age your appearance. 

How to End Your Reliance on Alcohol

The best way to avoid long-term health risks to your body’s organs and systems is to quit drinking altogether. However, you might struggle to do that on your own, despite being well aware of the multiple adverse consequences you are putting yourself in danger of.

If you are considering entering professional treatment to help you end your dependence on alcohol, Beach House is here to help you. We have created one of the nation’s leading substance abuse treatment programs, where men and women can address the underlying causes of their addiction in a tranquil, resort-like environment. When you are ready to make a fresh start, our admissions counselors are here 24/7 to take your call.

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