In a 2015 study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers determined that nearly one third of Americans have or had an alcohol use disorder. The same study found that while binge drinking is increasing among Americans, only about one fifth of those who suffer from alcohol use disorders ever seek treatment. According to the CDC, all this drinking is expensive, with medical problems, accidents, DUIs, and other costs adding up to nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars ($226 billion) a year. Even more alarming are some of the long-term physical and psychological effects of alcohol use.
While many people may know that alcohol negatively affects organs like the heart, brain, and liver, not many know the true extent of the long-term physical and psychological damage that alcohol can actually cause. And, unfortunately, scientists, doctors, and other researchers still have a long way to go when it comes to determining and diagnosing all of alcohol’s negative effects on the brain and body.
The major, known long-term problems that alcohol abuse may cause include:
- Liver damage and cirrhosis of the liver
- Brain cells die
- For men, sperm production is reduced
- Stomach and intestinal ulcers may form
- Blood pressure spikes, resulting in increased risk of heart attack or stroke
Other problems that are less common, and more prevalent among serious alcohol abusers include:
- Problems with anxiety and emotional regulation
- Impaired memory
- Reduced decision-making abilities
According to a variety of research, including a study recently published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, women may be more sensitive to the short and long term effects of alcohol on the brain and body. Overall, research suggests that men and women absorb and metabolize alcohol in their bodies in different ways, leading to different consequences over time.
Current research also shows that women are much more likely to blackout when they drink too much alcohol too quickly, and while it’s true that this is a short term effect, these alcohol-induced blackouts may be causing long-term damage to drinkers’ brains in ways that we do not fully yet understand.
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Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is a disorder experienced by some of the 80% of long-term alcoholics who have a deficiency in thiamine (also known as vitamin B10.) Technically, the syndrome is actually 2 disorders: Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis.
Wernicke’s encephalopathy is a disorder characterized by short term problems, including mental confusion, paralysis of the eye nerves, and muscle coordination problems, such as issues with walking. Korsakoff’s psychosis is a long-term, and often permanent disorder, characterized by serious issues with learning and memory, often including the inability to learn new information and the inability to create new memories.
Liver Disease due to Alcoholism may Cause Brain Damage
While it’s common knowledge that drinking too much alcohol can cause liver damage, many individuals don’t know just how much alcohol-induced liver damage can actually cause the brain. Individuals who have abused alcohol for many years often develop cirrhosis of the liver, and that disorder can lead to another potentially fatal condition referred to as hepatic encephalopathy.
This condition can cause a variety of physical, mental, and emotional problems, including:
- Concentration and attention problems
- Issues with motor coordination
- Sleep and personality problems
- Coma and death in some cases
Treating hepatic encephalopathy can be difficult, and usually involves helping the liver better clear the body of toxins. Treatments can often include medications that lower blood ammonia levels, artificial livers and liver-assist devices, and in serious cases, liver transplants.
While many alcohol-induced changes to the brain and body are permanent, many can be reversed if an individual stops their alcohol consumption early enough. While no one can go back and change the past, each individual has complete control over the choices they make in the present and future.
If you or someone you know is addicted to alcohol, know that there is hope. Every day is a new opportunity to make a positive change that can impact your life and that of your loved ones, forever.
At Get Treatment, we can help you find the treatment you need to lead a healthier and more fulfilling life, without drugs and alcohol. Let us help you find an accredited alcohol rehabilitation facility that provides comprehensive and tailored treatment programs for addiction rehabilitation.
drug and alcohol treatment center that will help you get your life back from addiction, call Get Treatment today at 855-638-9268.