The effects of alcoholism on a person’s life can vary depending on the level of addiction. Long-term alcoholism is a chronic disease that can result in death if untreated.
Is Alcohol Use Disorder a Disease?
Alcohol use disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by an individual’s eventual inability to stop or prevent themselves from reducing or stopping the use of alcohol. This is often the result of drinking excessive amounts or binge drinking or drinking a continually escalating amount over a long period.
While alcohol has the ability to make the individual feel good in the short term, the long-term effects of alcohol can be incredibly serious. Alcohol use disorder can lead to liver disease, heart disease, and countless other medical conditions, and getting clean from alcohol is no easy task.
What are the Effects of Alcoholism on a Person’s Life?
Drinking too much can harm your health. Excessive alcohol use led to more than 140,000 deaths and 3.6 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) each year in the United States from 2015 – 2019, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 26 years.
Alcohol use of all types leads to consequences and risks, both in the short term and the long term. Short-term effects and most long-term effects can be reversed with enough recovery time. If left unaddressed, however, the most severe cases can be fatal.
Short Term Health Risks
While a more extensive list of risks can be found at healthline.com, this should give you a reasonable idea of what to expect from short-term effects.
- Impaired motor skills
- Reduced coordination
- Problems regulating speech
- Loss of consciousness
- Significant cognitive disruption
- Reduced decision-making abilities
- Reduced nervous system activity
- Increased heart rate
- Digestive system disruption and damage
- Stress to the kidneys from dehydration
- Stress to the liver
Long-Term Health Risks
Long-term effects and risks can begin to take effect just months after starting to drink regularly and can take years to reverse in some cases.
- Reduced mental capacity
- Permanent impairment in the ability to create, store, and recall memories
- Thiamine deficiency
- Persistent states of confusion or delirium
- Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, also known as “wet brain”
- Persistent impairment in coordination and motor skills
- Further increasing the risk of damage to the muscle tissues of the heart
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Significant loss of gray matter brain mass
- Significant loss of white matter brain mass
- Physical shrinkage of the brain
- Brain damage leading to memory & behavior issues
- Higher risk of liver diseases like steatosis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis
- Higher risk of liver cancer
Social Consequences of Alcoholism
Not only are there countless potential physical drawbacks to alcoholism, but developing an alcohol use disorder can also have a dramatic effect on the social circles and relationships of an individual. The first big social change is that the patient begins to withdraw and self-isolate.
During this time the individual will also begin to alter their social circles to accommodate those who actively engage in heavy or otherwise problematic drinking behaviors. By surrounding themselves with others who have similar patterns of behavior, the individual can help normalize and rationalize the behavior to themselves and even others.
Eventually, the behavior and side effects of drinking will begin to damage the relationships between the individual and their friends and family. This can include stressing, damaging, and even destroying romantic or other interpersonal relationships. Over time, alcoholism can lead to a near-complete loss of all meaningful social interaction.
Alcohol Detox & Rehab Programs
According to Mayoclinic.org:
“For serious alcohol use disorder, you may need a stay at a residential treatment facility. Most residential treatment programs include individual and group therapy, support groups, educational lectures, family involvement, and activity therapy.”
Entering into a professional treatment program is the best way to start the recovery process. For residents in the Long Island area, there are many options for detox & rehab facilities. Not only are treatment centers crucial components to completing detox and withdrawals in a safe and relatively comfortable manner, but they give the individual invaluable therapy, counseling, and education about their condition.
The educational programming, individual and group counseling, 12-step program, and various therapeutic methods that are employed during an individual’s treatment plan are aimed at giving them more resiliency in avoiding and actively preventing relapses. They are guided to a more thorough understanding of their own mental and behavioral state and are given the emotional toolkit needed to successfully navigate all types of challenges going forward.
When is it time?
The biggest question that many people have when it comes to their heavy drinking and potentially facing alcoholism treatment is when is the time right for treatment, or how does one tell that treatment is needed? One of the biggest indications that treatment is needed for the cumulative effects of alcohol is that when drinking is stopped for a period, the onset of withdrawal symptoms can be felt.
Additional signs that treatment is needed include:
- Consistently unstable emotional state
- Binge drinks often
- Drop in school or work performance
- Neglecting basic responsibilities while making excuses
- Becoming violent or criminal
- Sudden loss of interest in things previously loved
Eventually, untreated addiction can lead to significant troubles like financial distress, disruptions in their professional life, health problems, and even issues in their interpersonal or romantic relationships. The potential benefits of getting help will nearly always outweigh any possible drawbacks, including criminal.
If you or someone close to you in the Long Island area is struggling with addiction, contacting Long Island Rehabs can be the first step on the path to recovery. When you partner with this expert, you can get information and details on every rehab and detox facility.