Alcohol is a psychoactive, central nervous system depressant that works by slowing down vital functions in one’s body. Harvard Health explains that “alcohol directly influences the stomach, brain, heart, gallbladder, and liver. It affects levels of lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and insulin in the blood, as well as inflammation and coagulation. It also alters mood, concentration, and coordination.” When an individual drinks alcohol, it enters his or her bloodstream immediately and reaches the brain within five minutes of consumption. The half-life, meaning the length of time the substance will remain in one’s system until the concentration in one’s blood has been reduced by half, of alcohol is four to five hours. However, about five half-lives are required to fully eliminate alcohol from one’s body. There are a variety of unwanted long-term effects of alcohol, some of which include the following:
- Impaired sleep: Alcohol interferes with the sleep-wake cycle, making it more difficult to fall and remain asleep. A 2014 University of Missouri-Columbia study specifically found that drinking alcohol as a method of getting to sleep disrupts the body’s sleep homeostasis, or sleep regulator, and adversely affects one’s natural sleep cycles.
- Imbalanced hormones: Alcohol can lower testosterone levels in men, and can increase testosterone and estradiol levels in women.
- Increased risk of cancers: Alcohol is a known carcinogen, which is a “substance, organism, or agent capable of causing cancer.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the more alcohol you consume, the greater your risk of developing certain types of cancer.
- Increased inflammation: Heavy alcohol use can lead to systemic inflammation, or prolonged inflammation throughout your entire body.
- Decreased mental clarity: Alcohol can cause long-term, negative impacts on the brain, including poor memory and slower reflexes.
- Impaired liver function: Research indicates that 90% of alcohol in the body is eliminated by the liver. Chronic and excessive alcohol consumption destroys liver cells, and the liver is integral to filtering out and detoxing our bodies of harmful substances.
- Weight gain: Alcohol is filled with sugar and empty calories, and excessive drinking can cause weight gain.
- Poor nutrition: Drinking can deplete your body of vital nutrients and can interfere with the digestion, storage, utilization, and excretion of nutrients.
Even with the known and empirically supported adverse outcomes associated with alcohol use, it is currently recognized as the most used substance by youth and adults in the United States.
For Information and Support
If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at email@example.com.