Eight Health Issues Associated with Alcohol Abuse

All kinds of substance abuse comes with different kinds of side effects. The types and severity of these side effects are dependent upon the substance of choice.  Chronic alcohol use is defined as having more than eight to fifteen drinks per week.  Hopefully at this point, everyone over the legal drinking age is aware of the dangers that can potentially come with alcohol overconsumption.  When it comes to alcohol abuse, research has linked it to more than sixty diseases.  Of these sixty, there eight that are the most common.

man struggling with alcohol abuse

1. Nerve Damage – There is a form of nerve damage that is common to alcohol abusers called alcoholic neuropathy.  Alcoholic neuropathy can produce numbness, muscle weakness, erectile dysfunction, constipation, pins and needles, and a variety of other problems.  There may be two causes of alcoholic neuropathy.  It may come about because alcohol is toxic to nerve cells, or it may come about because of the dietary deficiencies that often come with alcohol abuse.

2. Cirrhosis – Cirrhosis is a potentially lethal condition in which the liver is so damaged and scarred that it is unable to function.  Since alcohol is toxic to the cells of the liver, getting a liver transplant is possibly the only way to survive the death of the liver.  There is no predicting who is going to be effected by cirrhosis and who is not.  Many heavy drinkers never have a problem with their livers while some occasional drinkers do.  Women are apparently more susceptible than men are to cirrhosis.

3. Depression – Alcohol is a depressant.  Heavy drinking has long been a commonly used self-medication effort for depression.  Asked whether depression comes before drinking or drinking comes before depression is a very chicken or the egg kind of question.  Research has been done to show that depression often eases when people stop drinking.

4. Cancer – Habitual drinkers have an increased risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colorectal area.  The body converts some of the components of the alcohol into acetaldehyde which has carcinogenic properties.  Often, chronic alcohol users are tobacco users as well which comes with an increased chance of lung cancer.

5. Pancreatitis – Heavy drinking not only causes gastritis or stomach irritation, but it also causes irritation in the pancreas called pancreatitis.  While sometime pancreatitis is caused by gallstones, it is more often a result of heavy alcohol consumption.  Pancreatitis interferes with the process of digestion.  It also causes persistent diarrhea and extreme abdominal pain.

6. High Blood Pressure – The sympathetic nervous system controls the dilation and constriction of blood vessels.  Blood vessels generally open and close in response to stress, temperature, exercise, and other things that make the blood want to move.  Alcohol can disrupt the sympathetic nervous system enough so that the blood pressure can rise very high.  Eventually, this can become a chronic problem leading to stroke or heart disease.

7. Infectious Diseases – Heavy drinking makes the body less able to fight off infections because it suppresses the immune system.  Infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis can take hold with nothing to fight them off.  Heavy drinkers are also more likely to get a variety of sexually transmitted disease because heavy drinkers are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.

8. Heart Disease – Heavy drinking is known to make blood platelets clump together and potentially form blood clots.  Blood clots can cause all different kinds of issues within the body including heart attack.  But heavy drinking can also cause

Cardiomyopathy – A condition that weakens the heart muscle to the point where it will eventually fail

Atrial fibrillation – The irregular beating of the heart’s upper chambers or the atria which can cause blood clots that lead to stroke.

Ventricular fibrillation – The irregular beating of the heart’s lower chambers or the ventricles which can quickly cause a loss of consciousness that will lead to sudden death if not treated immediately.

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