When a person gets drunk, what’s basically happening is that they’ve taken in more alcohol than their body can metabolize. The excess gets stored in the bloodstream which gets circulated throughout the entire body thanks to the heart pumping away. Changes in normal body function begin happening as a result of internal chemical changes.
Alcohol is a drug, and like with most things, you can have too much of it.
How an individual will react to drinking depends on several factors, including genetics, gender, weight, general health, and of course, how much and how often consumption is happening. With time, imbibing alcohol can lead to many chronic diseases and other serious health problems developing, especially for the heavy drinker.
Here are the 10 most common problems heavy drinkers face:
- Liver problems. Alcohol is metabolized in the liver, so it follows that this organ will take the worst of the abuse. At least 90% of those who drink to excess will develop alcoholic fatty liver. They are at higher risk scar tissue-inducing long term inflammation also known as alcoholic hepatitis.
- Pancreatitis. This painful inflammation of the pancreas often requires hospitalization. Caused by overconsumption of alcohol, it’s also likely related to early activation of pancreatic enzymes and chronic exposure to acetaldehyde.
- Cancer. Most drinkers tend to smoke, therefore tobacco-related cancers are prevalent in drinkers, too. Other cancers, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, stomach, liver, colon, rectum, and breast have been diagnosed amongst alcoholics. The increased exposure risk comes from acetaldehyde and the alcohol itself.
- Problems with the digestive system. Ulcers and gastrointestinal problems develop when alcohol interferes with gastric acid secretion. This can delay gastric emptying, impairing the muscle movements in the bowels. Heavy drinking has been responsible for stomach ulcers, acid reflux, heartburn, and inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis).
- Damage to the immune system. Alcohol weakens the immune system by dropping white blood count, thus making you vulnerable to infectious diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis.
- Brain damage. The brain continues to develop until about age twenty-five, so it’s especially dangerous for young people to consume in excess. Long-term drinking speeds up the aging process of the brain. Serotonin production, brain receptors, and neurotransmitters are all altered by alcohol so that a person’s cognitive function, moods, emotions, and reactions cannot be controlled.
- Malnourishment. Even if you think you’re eating healthy, which most heavy drinkers do not, the buildup of byproducts in your system from alcohol damage can affect how your body absorbs nutrients, or more importantly, how it doesn’t anymore. Interrupted red blood cell production could cause bleeding from gastric ulcers, which could then lead to problems with anemia and iron deficiency.
- Osteoporosis. Repeated instances of heavy alcohol consumption, particularly during adolescence and young adulthood, will affect bone health and increase the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis, a loss in bone mass, is possible because alcohol interferes with the production of calcium, vitamin D, and cortisol levels, thus weakening bone structure.
- Heart disease. Large amounts of alcohol can trigger the release of stress hormones which constrict blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure. These changes in blood pressure, along with increases in platelet activation as the body tries to account for the blocked production, can cause a stroke. Alcoholics also face an increased risk for cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, heart attack, or even sudden cardiac arrest. Death.
- Accidents and injuries. All of your abilities become skewed when under the influence of alcohol. From thought processes and decision making to balance and reaction times.