Alcoholism is a chronic disease that can take years or even decades to develop. The first signs of alcoholism may be subtle and difficult to recognize, but eventually, the disease inevitably takes over a person’s life. While some alcoholics can stop or moderate their drinking once they’ve started, others continue drinking heavily despite being aware of how it affects their lives. It can lead to dependence and alcoholism, which may cause serious health, mental and social problems for those affected. Alcoholism is also called alcoholic dependence syndrome, dipsomania, or alcohol dependence disorder.
Below are seven main risks associated with drinking alcohol regularly, some of which may not be immediately apparent. It is important to know these risks so that you can get treatment early enough. Pinnacle Recovery Center is one of the recovery centers in Utah where you or a loved one can enroll to gain sobriety.
1. Increased risk of heart disease and stroke
Alcohol can cause fatty deposits to build up in your arteries, which makes them narrower. As a result, less blood flows through the body, increasing the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Alcohol affects men more than women because alcohol raises the level of estrogen in the blood, which may offset some of the effects of alcohol.
2. Liver damage
Alcohol is metabolized by the liver, which breaks down alcohol into acetic acid and ethyl alcohol. In small amounts, it is excreted from the body through perspiration, urine, and breathing. However, if a person ingests too much alcohol, the amount of acetic acid can become toxic to the liver. This can cause severe scarring and liver damage.
3. Alcohol addiction increases the risk of cancer
Alcohol is a risk factor for cancer of breasts, liver the mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), and esophagus. Many heavy drinkers have the precursor conditions known as oral hairy leukoplakia and alcoholics may develop a condition known as peptic esophagitis, which can increase a person’s risk for esophageal cancer.
4. Infertility in men and women
Alcohol can interfere with sexual performance and fertility by inhibiting testosterone production in men and disrupting menstrual cycles in women. It has been known to decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone, leading to difficulties becoming pregnant.
5. Birth defects
Alcohol is a teratogen, meaning that it can interfere with healthy fetal development resulting in birth defects including heart deformities and brain damage. When a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol can pass from the mother’s bloodstream to the fetus. The alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme does not work in fetuses, so they cannot metabolize alcohol as adults do. As a result, an unborn child who is exposed to alcohol absorbs more of it than if he or she were in the body of an adult where alcohol would be broken down and passed out of the body.
6. Psychological disorders
Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to psychological problems such as impaired judgment, depression, and anxiety. Studies have shown a definite link between chronic alcoholism and depression. Alcoholism has been associated with suicide attempts, especially with those who are young or middle-aged. Alcoholics may engage in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex, which increases the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS.
7. Alcohol addiction increases the risk of interpersonal problems
Alcohol causes impairments in vision, balance, motor control, and judgment. It can lead to behavioral changes such as uncharacteristic aggression, social withdrawal, or neglect of family responsibilities. Addicted individuals may also be prone to criminal activities like driving under the influence of alcohol or getting involved in fights or accidents. Alcohol addiction can result in loss of employment or unemployment, which increases the risk for financial problems.
Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that requires treatment, regardless of the form of alcohol intake. Alcohol addiction is treatable with medications, 12-step programs, and other therapies designed to help people stop drinking.