Why is Alcohol Bad for You?Anna Ciulla
Although alcohol consumption is a common part of everyday life, many individuals are unaware of the possible long-term effects. If you’re wondering if alcohol is bad for you, you’re not alone. To understand the effects of alcohol use, it’s important to first compare moderate alcohol usage versus binge drinking. From there, we will discuss how the frequency of alcohol consumption can lead to unwanted side effects.
If you regularly consume alcohol and feel that your usage is turning into a problem, educating yourself on the potential risks is critical. In this article, our alcohol detox center will be breaking down the different categories of alcohol usage and discussing the risks associated with heavy drinking. Once you are fully educated on the potential side effects, you’ll be able to change your life for the better.
Breaking Down Alcohol Usage
To accurately assess the potential long-term health effects of drinking, we must first define the different categories of alcohol usage. A standard drink in the United States is considered 14.0 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. In commonly consumed drinks, this means 1.5 ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor, 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content), 8 ounces malt liquor (7% alcohol content), or 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content). Common usage definitions are outlined below.
- The Dietary Guidelines for Americans define moderate alcohol consumption as one alcoholic beverage per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
- According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL, which can occur after five drinks for men and four drinks for women over a two hour period.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heavy drinking is defined as the consumption of eight alcoholic beverages or more per week for women and fifteen or more drinks per week for men.
When looking at the relationship between alcohol consumption and health, the more an individual drinks, the higher their risk is for developing negative long-term side effects.
The Risks of Heavy Alcohol Use
A number of health risks can develop from long-term heavy drinking. Below is an overview of some of the risks of heavy alcohol use.
- Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways. Over time, it can disrupt the way the brain operates, leading to changes in behavior, mood, coordination and overall cognitive functioning. In some cases, the effects of alcohol on the brain can be irreversible.
- The liver is one of the primary organs responsible for neutralizing toxic substances in the body. This organ plays a key role in processing alcohol. Over time, heavy alcohol consumption can result in fatty liver (steatosis), alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis (liver disease).
- The heart is another organ that can be significantly impacted by heavy alcohol use. Long-term effects of heavy alcohol use on the heart include high blood pressure, stroke, arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), and cardiomyopathy (dropping and stretching of the heart muscle).
- Heavy alcohol use affects the pancreas in many ways. Over time, alcohol causes the pancreas to generate toxic substances that can result in the development of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a condition that is characterized by swelling and inflammation of the blood vessels within the pancreas, which can inhibit proper digestion.
- When you think of the negative effects of alcohol use, you probably don’t consider cancer among the risks, but according to the National Cancer Institute, there is a strong scientific consensus that drinking alcohol can cause several types of cancer. The evidence suggests that the more alcohol an individual consumes, the higher their risk is for developing alcohol-related cancer. Data from 2009 indicates that 3.5% of cancer deaths in the United States (approximately 19,500 deaths) were alcohol-related. Below are the types of cancer that have been linked to alcohol consumption.
- Head and Neck Cancer
- Esophageal Cancer
- Liver Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Colorectal Cancer
- In addition to all of the risks above, heavy alcohol use can also have a lasting impact on your immune system. Your immune system is responsible for protecting your body. Binge drinking can weaken your immune system, which can make the body more susceptible to disease.
While moderate drinking may not have an impact on your health, your risks can quickly increase the more you consume. Once you begin drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis, your body can become susceptible to the health effects listed above.
If you think that you or a loved one is an alcoholic, reach out to our specialists at our inpatient alcohol treatment center today to talk about the various options available. For those with a more severe addiction, our long-term residential treatment may be the best option for you. Call our Florida addiction center today to get the help you need.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol & Public Health: Frequently Asked Questions.” Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm#alcoholismAbuse.
- Health.gov. “Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Appendix 9. Alcohol.” Retrieved from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-9/.
- Healthline. “Alcohol and Health: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/alcohol-good-or-bad.
- National Cancer Institute. “Alcohol and Cancer Risk.” Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/alcohol/alcohol-fact-sheet.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Drinking Levels Defined.” Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking.