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Most people are aware that drinking can cause severe health problems over the long term, including organ and tissue damage, mental health disorders and malnutrition. However, you may not have realized that alcohol use can increase your risk of some diseases and disorders. Doctors and medical researchers haven’t pinpointed the exact reasons why heavy drinking can elevate your odds of developing these illnesses, but the prevailing reason is that the physical changes, such as cell damage, associated with alcohol can make it more likely that people who drink regularly will receive a diagnosis of a serious disease at some point in their lifetime.
Types of Cancer Associated With Alcohol Abuse
If you drink regularly, you are endangering your physical and mental health in various ways. For example, research has demonstrated a link between alcohol abuse and the following types of cancer.
- Liver: You probably know that alcohol use can cause liver damage and even liver failure, but it can also make you more susceptible to developing liver cancer, compared to non-drinkers.
- Esophagus: The risks of developing esophageal cancer increase correspondingly with alcohol use. Esophageal cancer is a highly aggressive form of the disease that is usually fatal – the five-year survival rate for all people who receive this diagnosis is approximately 5%.
- Throat and mouth: Because of the way alcohol affects the cells in throat and mouth tissues, it’s more likely heavy drinkers will develop cancer in these areas than people who avoid drinking alcohol. If you also smoke, you are increasing these risks even further, since alcohol can make it easier for toxic chemicals from cigarettes to affect your cells.
- Rectum and colon: Though men who frequently drink are more vulnerable to developing colorectal cancer, women are at risk from heavy drinking too.
- Breast: Women’s odds for receiving a breast cancer diagnosis increase in tandem with alcohol use, especially if you have a family history of this form of cancer.
Additional Health Problems Linked to Alcohol Use
If you choose to drink alcohol, especially if you’re a problem drinker or an alcoholic, you should understand that you are leaving yourself more vulnerable to many other mental and physical health problems down the road. Here are some things to consider.
- Alcohol can permeate body cells quickly, where it can damage your DNA and cause harmful mutations and cell damage.
- Over time, alcohol impairs the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients and vitamins from food. Many alcoholics are malnourished as a result, and can develop disorders associated with poor nutrition.
- Because alcohol is high in calories, people who abuse alcohol are also often overweight. Obesity links to a wide variety of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
- People who drink heavily often do so to dull the symptoms of underlying mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, anxiety or bipolar disorder. Substance abuse can exacerbate mental health problems, and vice versa.
Do You Need to Quit Drinking?
If you have realized that you have a problem with alcohol, you may have already committed to quitting in the past, only to realize that you can’t do it alone. Because of the way addiction alters brain chemistry, someone who has abused alcohol for many years will need medical detox, followed by therapy and ongoing treatment and support, to stop drinking and reclaim their health.
After you have taken the first step of admitting that alcohol has created problem areas throughout your life, including your physical well-being, you will need to find the right treatment center for you. Doing so will involve researching the various options, since there are many different approaches to alcohol rehab. In general, you can expect to be more successful in your recovery if your chosen facility has the following characteristics.
- An overall philosophy that aligns with yours: For example, if you have strong feelings about using medications, as appropriate, to help ease withdrawal symptoms, you will want to investigate that.
- Long-term care options: Research shows a correlation between length of time spent in treatment and overall success in sobriety.
- Treatment approaches used: Though there is no cure for addiction, evidence-based treatment provides the best chances of achieving the goal of lifelong sobriety.
If you’re ready to start your recovery and the journey to better health, contact us at Beach House for your confidential consultation with one of our counselors.