Many people underestimate the harmful nature of alcohol. There are lots of reasons for this: alcohol is considered a celebratory substance, it’s available everywhere, and the frequent usage of alcohol is more socially acceptable than it should be.
All of these things combine to create a situation in which people forget about the inherent dangers of alcohol. Sure, a drink or two once in a while won’t kill you, but long-term use of alcohol will undoubtedly cause some unpleasant issues with your body, brain, and mental health. In this article we’ll explore the possible effects of alcohol in these areas.
Alcohol and the Body
Alcohol is a very strong substance, and it can have a number of immediate effects on the human body. The effects that you’ll experience depend upon the type of alcohol that you consume, and harder alcohol generally causes more immediate issues.
For example, anyone who takes a straight shot of whiskey can attest to the burning sensation that this causes. While this might be seen as a mere barrier to overcome to enjoy the effects of the alcohol, remember that this burn is actually the caustic substance of alcohol burning your throat.
Once alcohol gets into your stomach, it continues to wreak havoc on your body as it enters your bloodstream and travels to your liver and your other organs. Some of the most common issues associated with long-term alcohol usage are:
- Liver cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. The liver is used for detoxifying the body and this can impair its function, leading to many other problems.
- Ulcers. The harsh, burning nature of alcohol can contribute to the development of ulcers in the stomach or intestines.
- Digestive problems. Many long-term alcohol users experience problems like cramping, bloating, intestinal inflammation and diarrhea.
- Cancer. Heavy drinking over a period of years can make someone more vulnerable to cancer, particularly of the liver.
Alcohol and the Brain
Alcohol also causes a number of effects in the brain.
One of the main reasons that alcohol is enjoyable is because it influences the brain’s GABA system. GABA is a neurotransmitter (a brain hormone) that’s responsible for regulating feelings of relaxation and for warding off anxiety. Alcohol creates a positive influx of this compound, leading to the comforting sensations associated with drinking..
Unfortunately, long-term overloading of the GABA system can lead to a number of unpleasant situations – one of the most dangerous being physical addiction to the substance influencing the system, in this case alcohol. The brain becomes accustomed to having alcohol in the brain, and thus requires it to produce GABA.
If a heavy drinker suddenly stops drinking, then their GABA system will backfire, leading to withdrawal symptoms like shaking, confusion, sweats, anxiety, and tremors. In serious cases, alcoholics in withdrawal may experience seizures that can be fatal. Alcohol withdrawal is one of the few drug withdrawals that can actually kill you.
Alcohol and Mental Health
It is well-known that mental illness affects your physical health. So too, dangerous substances such as alcohol can have long lasting effects on your mental health. Long-term drinkers can also damage the brain in other ways. Some of the most common symptoms attributed to long-term drinkers include:
- Impaired speech and difficulty forming coherent sentences
- Slower reaction times
- Difficulty remembering things and learning new things
- Increased anxiety, changes in mood and temperament
- Psychological addiction
These issues can be difficult to manage and in some cases can lead to a person drinking more in an effort to overcome the problems that were created by alcohol in the first place.
The impact of alcohol on our bodies cannot be understated. It doesn’t just impact us in one specific area. Rather, both physical and psychological issues frequently come up regarding alcohol consumption, sometimes leading to death (after all, alcohol is estimated to contribute to 88,000 deaths per year in the U.S.).
Moreover, there is a serious lack of understanding by the general public, which further exacerbates the problem. For example, some people believe that alcohol is a stimulant, while other believe it is a depressant. When it comes to whether alcohol is a stimulant or depressant, it really depends on your blood alcohol content in your body. While in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter which one it is, it’s the fact that people have no clue. Such ignorance generally leads to unfortunate outcomes.
Despite how popular it might be, there’s little doubt that alcohol is a dangerous substance. It can be enjoyed responsibly once in a while, but one should be careful to observe how much they’re drinking.
Hopefully this article has shed some light on the dangerous nature of alcohol so you can work to prevent any damage that might be done by alcohol to you or your loved ones.
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