Alcoholism is perhaps one of the most misunderstood forms of addiction, mostly because it’s more dangerous than people think. We all associate alcoholics with incoherent speech, weakness, and confusion. But the truth is that alcohol can destroy careers and relationships, and it can ultimately lead to death. Alcohol affects the entire body, and often the decisions we make while under the influence of a margarita can change our lives. Although cases involving car crashes, domestic violence, and organ damage are easy to spot, most alcohol addictions are more likely go unnoticed. Many alcoholics manage to hold their lives together, but their family and friends still suffer in the process. If you think alcoholism is not as dangerous as opiates, or other illicit drugs, keep reading. This article might change your perspective.
1. Binge Drinking Can Be Life Threatening
Binge drinking is not alcoholism, though it usually leads to it. Occasional heavy drinking is more dangerous than you may think. Depending on your alcohol tolerance and current health state, it can even be life-threatening. Depending on the concentration of alcohol in your blood, you may experience anything from mild euphoria to alcoholic coma. But the concentration of alcohol in your blood doesn’t always have to be that high to put your life in danger. Simple tasks become dangerous too. Car accidents are the perfect example of what alcohol consumption can do, even in smaller quantities. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 people die every day in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Even with small concentrations of alcohol in your blood, your body doesn’t respond normally. You can easily fall over hard objects, trip or experience visual disturbances. While driving, visual disturbances can put your life as well as the lives of others in danger.
2. Chronic Alcohol Consumption Can Lead to Cirrhosis
A life-threatening condition that’s infamously known for its devastating effects on the human body is caused by alcohol consumption. According to the American Liver Foundation, up to 20% of heavy drinkers will develop cirrhosis in their lifetime. The liver is the filter of the human body. It breaks down fat, hormones, glucose and toxins. When you consume high quantities of alcohol over a prolonged period, your liver becomes overworked, simply because it has to get rid of the toxins. Slowly, your healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue. In advanced stages of cirrhosis, a liver transplant is needed to survive. To be eligible for the transplant, you must be sober for at least 6 months.
3. Alcohol Ages Us
It’s well known that alcohol dehydrates your body. But did you know it also dries your skin? Dry skin is more prone to aging since there’s not enough sebum production to keep the surface smooth. However, wrinkles aren’t your only worry. Redness, flushing, hyper-pigmentation and acne are also on the list since a liver that is constantly bombarded with alcohol has a hard time detoxing the body.
4. It Can Cause Permanent Brain Damage
The consumption of alcohol not only slows us down and confuses us temporally, but it can also lead to permanent changes in our brain chemistry. A large percentage of people who consume alcohol on a daily basis are thiamine deficient, which can lead to Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome. The syndrome is also hard to diagnose, and only a small portion of people suffering from it are diagnosed before it’s too late.
5. It Makes Depression and Anxiety Worse
Alcoholism is often associated with depression and anxiety. Some people drink for the mild euphoria, while others try to forget about their daily worries. But the truth is that alcohol actually makes things worse, not only because we try to forget about our problems instead of working on them, but because alcohol is a depressant. Additionally, both anxiety and depression medication are less effective when taken with alcohol.
6. Going Cold Turkey Could Kill You
Among withdrawal symptoms, you’ll find seizures, severe hallucinations, high fever, high blood pressure and vomiting. Not everyone experiences the same symptoms. However, if someone has been drinking for more than two years, the withdrawals will be more severe. Contacting a facility that deals with alcohol addictions doesn’t mean you have a lack of “motivation.” Going cold turkey may actually kill you or your loved ones.
7. Drinking During Pregnancy Can Lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Alcohol consumption doesn’t just affect you. It can also impact your unborn baby. When you consume alcohol, your fetus receives a part of the alcohol concentrations through your bloodstream inside the placenta. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) leads to liver damage, hormonal issues, heart defects and epilepsy in your child. On top of this, FAS also has an impact on the physical appearance of the child. Indicators include a smaller head, a thin upper lip, a flat mid-face and a smooth philtrum. While the effects from FAS vary, socialization issues or even disorders from the autistic spectrum appear in many children.
8. It Can Be Deadly When Mixed with Certain Painkillers
Certain painkillers contain strong opiates. Chronic pain sufferers are usually the ones who take prescription opiates. When mixed with alcohol, drugs like Oxycontin and Methanol are absorbed too quickly in the body and can actually lead to an opiate overdose. Also, keep in mind that the effects of alcohol on the human body can last up to 17 hours. If you drink before bed and you take a painkiller in the morning, you might be at risk too. Alcohol suppresses depressants and increases the bioavailability of stimulants.
9. It Can Cause Weight Gain
Most alcoholic drinks are filled with sugars that not only increases the total amount of calories you take in but also stimulate your insulin, a fat-storing hormone. Your body needs a small amount of glucose in your bloodstream to function. When your intake goes up, your insulin levels spike. The higher your insulin levels are, the more fat you store. Certain drinks like beer contain yeast, which can contribute to the growth of candida in the human body and slow your metabolism.
10. It’s Never Under Your Control
There’s actually a term for this: “high-functioning alcoholic.” A high-functioning alcoholic manages to keep a job, have normal relationships with family and friends and successfully hide their addiction. Abusing alcohol goes beyond losing your career or having problems with your loved ones. Even if these aspects of your life aren’t affected yet, the addiction is still present. The negative effects of alcohol on your health will still occur regardless if your family and friends know about it. Also, high-functioning alcoholics are at the biggest risk of causing permanent damage to their organs.
11. Pancreas Damage and Diabetes
Two long-term effects associated with alcoholism are pancreatitis and diabetes. When you consume alcohol over a prolonged period of time, your pancreas starts to produce too many enzymes that are no longer sent to your small intestine. The enzyme buildup leads to inflammation, which causes pancreatitis. This illness doesn’t come alone. Inflammation of the pancreas also causes diabetes. Depending on the type of pancreatitis (acute or chronic), you’ll experience abdominal discomfort, pain, nausea and diarrhea. Alcohol makes diabetes worse too. Most drinks are actually high in sugars.
12. It’s One of the Main Triggers of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault
Even a small amount of alcohol can cause our brains to imagine scenarios, become paranoid and trigger certain unhealthy behaviors. Often, alcohol consumption leads to domestic violence and sexual abuse. The Institute of Alcohol Studies reports that between 25% and 50% of domestic violence cases are caused by people who drink at the time of the assault. Keep in mind that the study didn’t focus on long-term drinkers. Some of these assaults could’ve even been caused by people who didn’t have a history of drinking. Worse, there’s a strong link between drinking and sexual assault too. Often, both the victim and the abuser drink during the assault, and the alcohol consumption can be used against the victim. Many times, the abuser suffers from temporary memory loss and doesn’t recall what they did either.
13. Alcohol Addictions Aren’t Budget Friendly
Alcohol is expensive and people who depend on it drink at least five times per week. To fit the alcoholic definition, a woman must drink at least five times per week and a man must have at least seven drinks. Even cheap beer becomes expensive when you’re piling up bottles every week. In many cases, people suffering from addictions refuse to buy enough food or contribute their share to their families. Many households suffer because alcohol addicts have an issue prioritizing where their financial resources go.
14. Alienation from Friends and Family
Addictions separate us from those we love. In the first stages of addiction, sharing a few drinks with your friends might relieve your anxiety for a short period of time and make you feel more sociable. But in the long-term, it might transform you into a hermit. When the body gets accustomed to alcohol, you’ll no longer crave companionship as much as you crave the short-lived euphoria. The alcohol addict will look forward to the next drink while sitting on the couch instead of spending time with their friends and family.
15. Men Are More Likely to Get Addicted but Women Experience More Organ Damage
While men are more likely to get addicted to alcohol, women metabolize it faster and experience more organ damage than men. In males, the dopamine response to alcohol consumption is stronger. Dopamine is also known as one of the “happy hormones,” and it can play a major role in why men are more tempted to consume more alcohol than women. In men, the euphoria state is more intense and lasts longer. In women, their physiology makes it harder to avoid organ damage from heavy drinking. Because women have less body water compared to men of the same height and weight, the alcohol reaches the blood faster. On top of this, higher concentrations of alcohol get into a woman’s blood compared to a man’s. Women are also more likely to die from cirrhosis due to the fact that their liver metabolizes estrogen. Long story short, a woman’s liver is busier than a man’s. Extra toxins slow down the liver in females even more due to the extra estrogen that needs to be eliminated too.
16. Tooth Decay and Hair Loss Are a Common Sign of Heavy Drinking
Most drinks are high in carbs and acids. Once they get on your teeth, they begin damaging your enamel. Cocktails are also known to stain the teeth. Hair loss appears due to nutritional deficiencies that come with heavy drinking. Alcohol is often high in calories and sugars, which can lead to weight gain. But that doesn’t mean it has any nutrients. One of the negative parts of alcohol consumption is the fact that it suppresses appetite. The more you drink, the less you eat. Even after 2 months of alcohol abuse, nutritional deficiencies and hair loss can occur. Your hair is highly dependent on your hormonal activity and the amount of nutrients it receives through your diet. When your hormones and diet are affected, hair loss occurs.
17. It Can Lead to Unemployment
Even though many would argue that being addicted to alcohol doesn’t always mean you drink while you work, it can still get you fired. There are many stories of employees who start calling their bosses after a few drinks and send them inappropriate emails. The story doesn’t end here. Even social media can get you fired. Posting things you would never post while sober is quite common after a few drinks. Worse, many have a hard time remembering what they did while under the influence of alcohol.
18. It’s Often Linked to Unresolved Issues and Trauma
There’s a strong correlation between alcohol dependence and trauma. The problem is that we often ignore the negative experiences that shaped the way we see the world. Abuse and growing up with emotionally unavailable parents takes a toll on us. Many adults that abuse alcohol were also exposed to parents who had drinking problems. A hard childhood can cause us to have a harder time connecting with others, making friends and finding a romantic partner. Unresolved issues cause many to use alcoholism as a survival strategy. Addressing the inner turmoil and deepest fears through therapy can help us overcome our past in a healthy manner.
What Should I Do Now?
If you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol consumption, don’t hesitate to take action. Alcoholism is a life-threatening addiction that should be addressed as soon as possible. If you aren’t sure whether you suffer from alcoholism, feel free to look through the seven signs of addiction. There, you’ll find the definition of addiction and information about what addictions look like. Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous can also help you or your loved one share your story with others and begin your healing journey. If you or someone you love suffers from an addiction, don’t hesitate to ask us about what steps you can take next.