Alcohol affects the body the moment you take a sip. Stay within the recommended one or two drinks, and you’ll feel relaxed. It’ll help relieve the stress of the day and may even help you gain some new friends at a party. Exceed the daily limit of four drinks for women and five for men, and you’re guaranteed a terrible hangover the next day.
Indulge in this behavior more often, and you’ll find yourself skipping class or missing work. Changes in mood and attitudes brought about by repeated drinking sprees can strain professional and personal relationships. No matter if you binge drink on some nights or spend most of the time being intoxicated, you’re putting your physical and mental health in danger because of excessive alcohol intake.
Binge Drinking: One Too Many in a Night
If you think binge drinking is okay, think again. It brings your blood alcohol content to the legal driving limit of .08, making you more prone to risky behaviors such as drunk driving, car crashes, unprotected sex, and violence.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers binge drinking as the most common, costly, and deadly heavy drinking pattern in the United States. Adults aged 18-34 years old are the most common binge drinkers, with men being twice as likely to binge drink than women. The center further reports one in 6 adults binge drink four times a month, and over 90% of adults admit to binge drinking in the past month. All in all, binge drinking accounts for losses in the workplace, criminal justice costs, and healthcare expenses that amount to USD$191 billion in 2010.
Heavy Drinking and Alcohol Addiction
Apart from going for four or more in a night, consuming 15 drinks per week for men and eight drinks for women is considered heavy drinking. Drinking multiple times in a month can significantly interfere with work, school, personal, and family relationships. Heavy drinking can also become a full-blown alcohol addiction that requires medical and professional intervention. This is necessary not just to save you and your relationships, as it is all the more crucial in terms of your mental and physical health.
Excessive Alcohol Intake and Mental Health
- Short-Term Effects
Alcohol has short and long-term effects on our brain and how it functions. Some of the immediate effects of excessive alcohol intake include confusion, lack of motor coordination, and inability to make decisions. When one continues drinking despite feeling these effects, it can cause alcohol poisoning, resulting in slowed heart rate, loss of consciousness, seizure, and even death.
Binge and heavy drinkers may also experience a ‘blackout’ where they do not remember what they said or did when they were drunk. Too much alcohol can lead to short-term memory loss.
- Long-Term Effects
Excessive alcohol intake impacts the brain in several ways. It can result in ‘wet brain syndrome,’ a thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency caused by heavy drinking and poor nutrition. Wet brain syndrome symptoms include mental confusion, hallucinations, and loss of muscle control.
Heavy drinking over time can also damage the hippocampus and affect long-term memory. They may ask repetitive questions, have problems learning a new skill, or even come up with stories to fill memory gaps.
Apart from memory loss, excessive alcohol intake can alter the brain to make it more dependent on alcohol to function. This is known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), alcoholism, or alcohol addiction.
This mental disorder compels you to constantly satisfy alcohol cravings at the expense of work, school, or personal relationships. It can cause you to decline from activities that previously interest you and to consume higher amounts despite knowing and experiencing detrimental health effects. You may even find it hard to manage withdrawal symptoms and crave for more when you try to cut down or attempt to stop drinking.
Excessive alcohol intake, either as binge or heavy drinking, reduces the hippocampus and its ability to produce short and long-term memory. People can also develop wet brain syndrome and AUD, anxiety, and depression, requiring appropriate treatment to reduce negative impacts on one’s mental health.
Excessive Alcohol Intake and Physical Health
Having one too many impair brain function over time, and according to research, it can also affect various body organs and disrupt body processes. Adverse physical effects caused by excessive alcohol intake can manifest in the form of body pains and illnesses such as:
- Disrupts the Immune System
Heavy drinking impairs the body’s immune system. Drinking a lot, even on several occasions, can lessen the body’s ability to fight infections, making a person susceptible to diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis.
- Damage Heart and Liver
It can also damage heart muscles. Excessive drinking can cause irregular heartbeat, stroke, or increased blood pressure. Too much alcohol also results in various liver damage forms, including alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis, fatty liver, and fibrosis.
- Affect Digestion
Heavy drinking can also affect digestion. Toxic substances produced by alcohol damage the pancreas and can hinder proper digestion. When digestion is disrupted, the body cannot absorb nutrients properly, which can cause malnutrition. It may also interfere with how the body processes sugar, resulting in increased blood sugar levels or diabetes.
Alcohol can also damage the intestines and result in frequent diarrhea or stomach pain. It may also produce gassiness, bloating, or constantly feeling full. It may also cause ulcers in the stomach lining, hemorrhoids, and internal bleeding, which require immediate medical attention.
- Reproductive Issues
Alcoholism affects men and women differently. It can cause erectile dysfunction and infertility in men while affecting women’s reproductive systems in several ways. Their menstrual cycles may stop and pose a risk for infertility. Should they conceive, there are greater chances of miscarriages, premature delivery, or stillbirth. Those who drink heavily while pregnant endanger the baby’s mental development. This may lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) that can present physical, learning, and behavioral problems in children.
- Bone and Muscle Loss
Excessive drinking can cause bones to thin and become rigid. When bones become weak, it increases the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Heavy drinkers may also complain of muscle cramps, weakness, and lack of muscle control.
- Alcohol-Related Cancers
Excessive drinking is also linked to the development of several types of cancers. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) cites several studies which show that increased alcohol intake over time is directly related to a higher risk for alcohol-related cancers. Drinking 50 grams or more in a day results in an increase of about 1.5% for developing breast, colorectal, along with head and neck cancers.
Alcohol Addiction Treatments
Understanding the negative mental and physical impacts of excessive alcohol intake can help you realize that you need to stop drinking to reverse its harmful effects on your body. You can seek help from medical professionals to help you overcome alcohol addiction.
Detoxification is often the first step in treating alcoholism. However, if one suffers from severe alcohol dependence, treatments can include a supervised medical detox, counseling, and even rehabilitative treatment. With regards to rehabilitation, professionals employ a combination of various types of therapies to address alcohol dependency. Doctors may even prescribe medication to alleviate alcohol cravings and prevent relapse.
Individuals who complete treatment need the support of their family and friends so they can sustain their efforts. They can also rely on support groups to encourage them to pursue the path towards sustainable recovery.
Excessive alcohol intake can affect a person’s mental and physical health. Too much alcohol can cause damages to areas in the brain that cause short blackouts or make learning new tasks difficult. It may even cause changes in moods and behavior that can impair social relationships. Alcohol use disorder can develop from frequent binge drinking or continuous intoxication. This presents a complicated mental health issue as it also occurs together with depression and anxiety.
Alcohol not only affects mood, memory, and decision-making, as it can also hamper physical processes. Excessive alcohol intake results in a weakened immune system, heart disease, lung ailments, and liver damage. It also has adverse effects on the digestive system, ranging from an upset stomach to colorectal cancer.
Heavy drinking also affects reproductive systems in men and women, leading to sexual dysfunction and infertility issues. They may also complicate pregnancies and affect an infant’s physical and mental development. Apart from this, too much alcohol can also cause bone and muscle loss. Worse, it can lead to various forms of cancer that can shorter a person’s lifespan and decrease life quality.
The dangerous effects of excessive alcohol intake are numerous. It not only hinders judgment, coordination, and memory, it can also lead to the development of chronic illnesses and several types of cancers.
While it may seem difficult to stop, you can overcome alcohol addiction through trained professionals. They can assist you with medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, engage you with counseling strategies and even facilitate a combination of therapies that can help you overcome alcohol dependence.
With the help of your loved ones and family, together with support groups, you can overcome alcohol addiction and press on towards life-long sobriety.