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What Are the Physical Effects of Alcohol Use Disorder on Health and Well-Being?

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The physical effects of alcohol on your body are wide-ranging and damaging. Alcohol use disorder has an even more serious impact on your body. It can have both short-term and long-term effects on your overall health and well-being. 

While it can take years for the long-term physical effects of alcohol use (and misuse) to wreak havoc on your health, there are short-term dangers as well. Alcohol is a toxin.  Drinking too much can harm your health and increases the likelihood that you will be involved in conflict, injury, or interpersonal problems. 

As a toxic substance, alcohol is usually digested approximately one (1) hour after consumption. The amount of time it takes for alcohol to enter your bloodstream and take effect depends on several factors such as body weight and whether it is being taken on an empty stomach or not. 

When consumed over an extended period, alcohol can have a serious impact on your body’s organs and tissues. Here are some of the long-term physical effects of alcohol on the body and your organs as well as other physiological processes. 

Effects of Alcohol on Digestion and the Endocrine Glands

Medical studies have shown that alcohol use disorder can lead to inflammation of the pancreas. This is caused by abnormal activation of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas. Excessive buildup of these enzymes can lead to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can become a chronic condition; severe cases can cause life-threatening complications, including severe digestive problems and cancer.  

Excessive drinking, particularly over time, will damage tissues in your digestive system making it difficult to digest food and absorb nutrients. This can lead to malnutrition; for example, thiamine deficiencies, along with vitamin and mineral shortages, are extremely common in alcoholics. Consuming alcohol can also cause bloating, diarrhea, ulcers, or hemorrhoids caused by constipation and dehydration. 

Alcohol Can Cause Liver Disease

The liver is an important organ of the body that helps to break down and eliminate toxins and other potentially harmful substances such as alcohol from the body. 

Drinking too much alcohol over time interferes with the functioning of the liver and could lead to chronic liver inflammation and liver disease. 

A damaged liver will cause an accumulation of toxins and other harmful substances in your body. Liver inflammation also causes cirrhosis or scarring of the liver. 

Alcohol Affects Your Sugar Level Regulation

The pancreas regulates how the body uses insulin to control glucose levels in the blood. The pancreas and the liver have to work together properly, or you will end up with either liver disease or pancreatitis. You can also suffer from hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels.

Alcohol can have a serious effect on the pancreas and prevent the organ from producing enough insulin to control the amount of glucose in your blood. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause hyperglycemia or excess sugar in the blood. 

If your organs cannot control the amount of sugar in the blood, you will experience further complications related to diabetes. In fact, people with diabetes or hypoglycemia are highly discouraged from using alcohol. 

Alcohol Affects the Central Nervous System

Prolonged use of alcohol may severely affect your central nervous system. Alcohol is a depressant; this means that it slows down brain activity. One of the most common effects of drinking is slurred speech. An intoxicated person usually has slurred speech because the alcohol has slowed down communication between the brain and the body. 

Alcohol use affects speech and coordination. It also interferes with thinking and reaction time. This is why drinking and driving is highly dangerous and illegal.

Individuals who engage in heavy drinking for an extended period of time often develop a condition called alcoholic neuropathy. This occurs because frequent presence of alcohol in the blood stream damages nerve tissue. A symptom of this is numbness and tingling in the feet and hands. 

Drinking can also have a negative impact on your ability to think clearly, create long-term memories, manage emotions, and make rational choices. Excessive alcohol consumption adversely affects the frontal lobe area of your brain which is responsible for important functions such as social behavior, decision-making, and reasoning. 

Effects of Alcohol on Reproductive Health and Sexual Performance

Alcohol use can have many effects on sexual performance and reproductive health as well. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can prevent the production of sex hormones, which can interfere with erectile functioning and libido levels.. Excessive drinking can also affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and possibly lead to infertility. 

Get Professional Help for Alcohol Use Disorder at Encore Outpatient Services

Are you or a loved one struggling with alcohol use disorder? Help is available in Arlington County at Encore Outpatient Services. We are Virginia’s premiere alcohol and drug addiction treatment center.

We have a wide range of treatment programs including partial hospitalization, general outpatient, and intensive outpatient programs for people struggling with alcohol use disorder. 

Visit our website at www.encorerecovery.com to learn more about our alcohol addiction treatment programs. You can also contact us today to book an appointment.

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