Alcohol has short and long-term effects that can affect your body’s health.
One theory is that the molecules in alcohol interfere with the cells of the pancreas, stopping them working properly. Over time, this will cause permanent damage to your pancreas, causing chronic pancreatitis. Around seven out of 10 cases of chronic pancreatitis are due to long-term heavy drinking.
Social mixing among people with alcohol use disorders leads to a higher risk of infection. The toxicity of alcohol ruins the immune system. Impaired immunity leads to a higher risk of clinical illness from a tuberculosis infection.
Alcohol breaks down into a substance called acetaldehyde, which can cause genetic mutations – a permanent change in the DNA sequence that makes up our genes. This can trigger cancerous cells.
In the colon and rectum, bacteria can convert alcohol into large amounts of acetaldehyde; it causes cancer in lab animals.
Binge drinking can cause irregular heart rhythms called arrhythmias.
Regular and binge drinkers may develop symptoms of depression. This increases their likelihood of developing suicidal thoughts.
Alcohol reduces our ability to think straight. It narrows our focus of attention and gives us tunnel vision. If someone provokes us while we’re drunk, we don’t take other factors into account, such as the consequences of rising to the bait. This can lead to violent reactions from people who would usually shrug things off.
When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed into the bloodstream from the stomach and intestines. All blood from the stomach and intestines first goes through the liver before circulating around the whole body. So, the highest concentration of alcohol is in the blood flowing through the liver. Liver cells contain chemicals (enzymes) which process (metabolize) alcohol. The enzymes break down alcohol into other chemicals which in turn are then broken down into water and carbon dioxide. The liver cells can process only a certain amount of alcohol per hour. Taxing the liver leads to malfunction and destruction.
Alcohol is a depressant drug. It slows down the activity of the central nervous system, including the brain. Alcohol affects your driving by causing:
- Impaired vision
- Reduced reaction times
- Falling asleep at the wheel
- Failure to obey road rules
- Overconfidence, which may lead to risk taking