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How Alcoholism Affects Your Body

June 17, 2019

Excessive alcohol abuse can have serious and fatal effects on your body. The physical effects – of alcoholism –  are not always visible. However, alcohol can cause short-term and long-term damage to the internal organs, ultimately resulting in significant and irreversible health complications.


Alcohol abuse affects every organ in the body. Here are a few organs that are at risk for substantial damage:

The Brain

The effects of excessive alcoholism, on the brain, occur almost immediately. Complications such as memory loss, lack of coordination, impulsivity, and the inability to think clearly can alter a person’s mood, thinking, and overall behavior.


Alcoholism, over an extended period of time, can also result in irreversible, long-term side effects. Slurred speech is one of the most common signs that an individual has had too much to drink. This side effect, of excessive alcohol consumption, is directly correlated with the central nervous system. Excessive alcohol consumption interferes and negatively altars important parts of the brain such as:


  • Limbic System – controls emotions, stimulation, memory
  • Cerebellum – receives sensory information and organizes the movement
  • Cerebral Cortex – information processing


Alcoholism can cause an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Alcohol naturally causes these neurotransmitters to pass on information too slowly, inducing drowsiness and delayed cognitive function. Routine functioning is compromised when the communication pathways of the brain and body are adversely impaired by excessive alcohol abuse. These disruptions can also result in mood or behavioral changes including depression, anxiety, agitation, memory loss, and seizures.


Excessive alcohol consumption, over a long time period, can even impact brain neurons, reducing the size of brain cells. The consequences of these changes include loss of temperature regulation, motor coordination, memory, learning, sleep patterns, and other cognitive functions. Fortunately, long term abstinence from alcohol may allow structural brain changes to partially repair themselves and reverse negative impacts on cognitive function.


The Circulatory System

Cardiomyopathy, weakening of the muscles of the heart, can be a direct result of alcoholism. This condition causes the heart to stretch and droop, which prevents the heart from contracting properly. Once the structural changes begin to take place, the heart is unable to pump sufficient amounts of blood to nourish the organs. As the cycle continues, this disorder can lead to organ and tissue damage, irregular heartbeat, and even heart failure.

Naturally, any damages to the heart affect the entire circulatory system as a whole. According to the NIAAA, people who binge drink are 39 percent more likely than people who never binge drink to suffer from a stroke. Hypertension – high blood pressure – is a common side effect of chronic alcoholism. Excessive alcohol consumption triggers the release of stress hormones which ultimately constrict blood vessels, causing blood pressure to rise. Other circulatory system complications include:


  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Anemia


Liver Damage

The liver is the organ that works to keep the body productive and overall healthy. According to WebMD, the primary function of the liver is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. As it does so, the liver secretes bile that ends up back in the intestines. The liver will break down most of the alcohol consumed, but toxins are also created during this process. These toxins damage the liver, cultivate inflammation, and weaken the body’s overall immune system. The severity of these issues can eventually interrupt the body’s metabolism and disrupt the functionality of other major organs.

Heavy drinking, even just for a few days, generally causes fat to build up in the liver. This condition, commonly known as fatty liver, is also the earliest stage of alcoholic liver disease. Fibrosis is also another alcohol-induced liver disorder, causing scar tissue builds up in the liver. As liver function continues to deteriorate, many alcoholics may develop cirrhosis. Other severe liver complications include:

  • Jaundice
  • Type 2 Diabetes,
  • Liver cancer
  • Liver failure


Digestive System

The connection between alcoholism and the digestive system are not always immediately clear. Side effects of issues within the digestive system do not appear until the damage has occurred. The more excessive alcohol consumption, the more obvious and dangerous damage to the digestive system. Excessive drinking can damage tissues in the digestive tract and ultimately affect intestinal function. Complications from drinking can prevent intestines from digesting food, absorbing nutrients and vitamins, and ultimately malnutrition.


Alcoholism can lead to a much higher risk for cancer in the mouth, throat, esophagus, colon, and liver. Other complications within the digestive system include:


  • Bloating
  • Alcoholic gastritis
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody/Painful stools
  • Gastritis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Ulcers
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding


Alcohol Dependency

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it has depressive effects on the body’s system. Alcohol will slow down brain functioning and also change the nervous system if imbibed for enough time and at sufficiently large quantities. Someone who excessively consumes alcohol will most likely develop an emotional and physical dependency on alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal and life-threatening. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol dependency, it is vital that you seek professional help.


At Truth Recovery Center, we offer effective drug and alcohol treatment for those who want to overcome their addiction. We consider addiction to be a three-part disease: physical, spiritual and mental. Our treatment programs provide the opportunity to leave a lifetime of addiction and relapse in the past and move forward into long-term sobriety.


Our Partial Hospitalization Program or PHP provides a carefully structured environment, away from the stress and temptations of the outside world. Our highly trained staff closely monitors residents 24/7 to ensure safety and success. With a low staff-to-client ratio, our PHP program is designed to provide a safe and comfortable atmosphere for our clients to reconnect with their sober identities.