It’s fine to have a few drinks every now and then. It’s even OK to go overboard on rare occasions. However, when it becomes a daily habit, all that drinking can become a big problem in your life. Like anything else, alcohol should be consumed in moderation to avoid serious consequences. These are just some of the ways that alcohol abuse can have a disastrous impact on your life.
Alcohol abuse poses several health risks, and the most widely known is probably liver damage. This includes liver diseases such as steatosis (fatty liver) and cirrhosis. These conditions have life threatening consequences such as the buildup of fluid in the abdomen, internal bleeding, and high blood pressure. It isn’t just the liver that’s impacted by alcohol either.
Drinking heavily for extended periods can cause serious damage to the esophagus and stomach. Excessive drinking puts the heart in danger as well, and drinkers are frequently plagued by cardiomyopathy, which essentially causes the heart to droop and increases the odds of heart failure. The effects on the liver can also spread to the kidneys, and heavy drinking significantly increases one’s risk for kidney failure. And the pancreas is put at risk due to the high sugar content in many alcoholic drinks. Of course, since all of these organs are vital for keeping you alive, this should put a scare into any heavy drinker. If you know any facts about prostate cancer or other forms of cancer, you’ll know that heavy drinking increases the odds of developing these conditions as well.
It isn’t just your body that’s at risk with heavy drinking — your mind is also in danger. This is because alcohol alters your brain chemistry, and in the long run this alteration can lead to issues such as depression. Alcohol has a demonstrated link to suicide and self-harm, likely because of its tendency to cause people to behave compulsively. Anyone who drinks heavily has likely experienced a “blackout” or loss of memory, and over time memory problems can become permanent. Alcohol doesn’t necessarily cause mental illness, although those with a mental illness are often more likely to become problem drinkers. Any other conditions you have are likely aggravated by drinking as well, as alcohol disrupts sleep, which is essential to our mental health.
As alcohol impairs judgment and coordination, it comes as no surprise that it negatively affects your performance at most tasks. Perhaps the most obvious impairment you’ll see is in your driving skills, and driving while intoxicated can quickly land you in a rough position where you need a DUI lawyer. Offences like these come with legal fees as well as the risk of losing your license. There are some less obvious consequences to problem drinking though.
One of these is alcohol’s tendency to mess with athletic performance. A hangover alone seriously impacts your physical performance in general. But while the “how” and “why” are not yet well understood, alcohol contributes to general muscle pain and loss. It also increases the body’s sensitivity to extreme temperatures, which is dangerous when performing strenuous actions, and it negatively affects your metabolism, which can impact recovery times. Even if you’re not an athlete, there are immediate physical repercussions which come from heavy drinking.
We already mentioned memory impairment as one of alcohol’s effects on cognitive performance, and it should come as no surprise that it’s not the only one. As alcohol also impairs judgment, it increases your likelihood of acting out in ways you normally wouldn’t. While sometimes you simply act foolish while drunk, alcohol can cause dangerous outbursts which lead to violence and accidents. In the case of long term heavy drinkers, some cognitive impairment is permanent. Common performance issues include a decrease in coordination, lack of ability to think clearly, and a diminished ability to learn new things. It’s even observed that heavy drinkers can have a diminished brain size.
With all of these adverse effects, alcohol abuse often keeps you away from your goals. Consequences are compounded if you get yourself into legal trouble, like with the possible DUI mentioned earlier. In the short term, you might face legal fees, safety courses, the suspension of your license, community service, or even jail time depending on the severity of the offense. Naturally, things get worse in the long term. For example, if you’re trying to get into an automotive & diesel technology college in NY, your DUI shows up in the background check they run for admissions, and at the very least it thwarts your chance of getting a scholarship. The same can be said about any potential future employer and most landlords, so you’ll find it harder to get the job or place you want.
Alcohol abuse doesn’t only affect you. Alcohol is a drug, and just like with any drug, abusing it affects those around you as well. At the very least, alcohol abuse may cause your friends to avoid you while drinking if your behavior is problematic. More drastic repercussions are familial problems. Research shows that one in four children in the US is brought up in a home with an alcohol problem. This is an alarming percentage considering how dire the situation for a child raised by an alcoholic can be, as kids can suffer from self-esteem issues and struggle with addiction themselves later in life.
These issues can cause feelings of resentment from all parties involved. The alcoholic may become resentful of family and friends who they perceive to be “prying” into their lives. Said friends or family members may feel resentful toward the alcoholic for their behavior when drinking or from believing the alcoholic isn’t trying hard enough to change. Across the board, alcohol abuse causes feelings of helplessness in all parties caught up in it, and for the alcoholic in particular, this feeling can lead to the belief that there’s no point in trying to change, which aggravates the problems.
Considering all of these life threatening problems caused by alcohol abuse, it may seem surprising that it’s still such a common problem. Unfortunately, alcohol is so ingrained into our society and is seen as such a staple of a good time that it’s honestly difficult to avoid. Factor in the adverse effect of withdrawal symptoms, and it’s pretty easy to see why people have difficulty quitting. These symptoms vary in intensity, and in the worst cases they can be life-threatening themselves.
If you know someone who is a problem drinker, all you can really do is be supportive of them getting help and try to refrain from judgment. If you find yourself suffering from some of these potentially life ruining symptoms, the best thing you can do for yourself is accept help, even if it needs to be as extreme as a hospitalized detox. It will be worth it to get your life back in order.