The long-term use of alcohol can not only lead to addiction but also have other long-term severe effects on a person’s physical and mental health. People can also experience financial difficulties, relationship problems, and difficulties at work or school. Therefore, it is essential to understand the long-term effects of alcohol abuse so individuals struggling with this issue can seek help and support before it is too late.
What Is Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that harms one’s physical or mental health, social life, and financial stability. It includes regular heavy drinking (more than seven drinks per week for women and more than 14 drinks per week for men), binge drinking (consuming five or more alcoholic beverages within two hours), driving under the influence of alcohol, and engaging in other risky behaviors while under the influence.
Are Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism the Same?
No, alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that causes harm but does not necessarily lead to alcoholism. Alcoholism, on the other hand, is characterized by an inability to control one’s alcohol consumption and physical dependence upon it. It is important to note that people can have alcohol abuse problems without being an alcoholic. However, it increases the risk of developing alcoholism.
Difference Between Alcohol Tolerance, Dependence, and Abuse
Alcohol tolerance is the body’s ability to handle larger quantities of alcohol without experiencing significant impairment. Alcohol dependence is a physical or psychological need for alcohol and can manifest in both physiological and behavioral symptoms of withdrawal when consumption is stopped. As aforementioned, alcohol abuse results in harm to oneself or others without necessarily leading to either tolerance or dependence.
Mental Health and Alcoholism: Using It to Cope
Alcohol abuse can lead to an unhealthy use of alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress or other mental health issues. This often leads to more frequent or excessive drinking to manage emotions and can be a sign of underlying mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, trauma, or personality disorders. It is vital to seek professional help if someone finds themself using alcohol to manage difficult emotions or situations.
How Alcohol Worsens Depression
Heavy drinking can worsen depression by interfering with the body’s natural production of serotonin, dopamine, and other hormones responsible for mood regulation. Additionally, alcohol is a depressant, so it can worsen symptoms in those already struggling with mental health disorders. In some cases, heavy drinking may even lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Alcohol and Brain Changes (GABA)
Chronic alcohol use can lead to changes in the brain’s reward system, resulting in increased tolerance of the substance and an inability to feel pleasure from other activities. This is due to decreased levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), which helps regulate dopamine production. Decreased levels of GABA are associated with impaired decision-making and impulsivity, increasing the risk of other dangerous behaviors while under the influence.
Alcohol and Organ Damage
The long-term effects of alcohol abuse can include organ damage, particularly to the liver and heart. For example, heavy drinking can lead to fatty liver disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and an increased risk for stroke or hypertension.
It is important to note that even moderate consumption of alcohol (two drinks per day) has been linked to an increased risk for certain types of cancer, such as breast and colon cancer. Additionally, heavy drinking can result in nutritional deficiencies due to malabsorption problems caused by alcoholic gastritis or pancreatitis.
Long-Term General Changes
The long-term effects of alcohol abuse can also include physical and psychological changes, such as increased irritability or impaired memory. Additionally, heavy drinking can lead to financial difficulties due to decreased productivity at work or school, relationship problems with family members or peers, legal troubles related to drunk driving, or other behaviors while under the influence.
It is important to understand the far-reaching consequences of alcohol use to know when to seek appropriate help and support before these issues become unmanageable.
Alcohol detox is the process of gradually reducing alcohol consumption to manage withdrawal symptoms safely. Detox should not be attempted without medical supervision as it can lead to serious health complications such as delirium tremens (DTs) or seizures. Treatment centers often offer medically supervised detox programs, including medications and counseling to help individuals through the process.
How Long Does Detox Take?
The length of time for detox depends on the individual, their level of dependence, and any underlying medical issues. Generally speaking, alcohol withdrawal can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending upon the severity of the addiction.
However, while the physical withdrawal symptoms will have subsided, some people can still have ongoing psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as cravings. As such, ongoing care is beneficial to avoid relapse.
Personalized Alcohol Detox and Treatment in Columbus, OH
At Ohio Addiction Recovery Center in Columbus, Ohio, we understand everyone’s situation is different. As such, we tailor our alcohol detox and treatment programs to fit the specific needs of the individual in a caring, supportive, and safe environment. To start your detox, contact us today.