Drinking alcohol is so prevalent in our culture that many people are not even aware of some of the dangers of alcohol use. We are constantly reminded to “drink responsibly,” and we know that by drinking too much, we could create negative consequences. Most people realize that drinking more than their limit can cause a hangover. But do we really know the short- and long-term dangers to our overall health that alcohol use can cause?
Many of these risks are common knowledge, but some are not. The use of alcohol is so common, yet do we all understand the risks we are taking every time we drink? Below are some of the short-term, or immediate risks of alcohol use.
• Brain – alcohol consumption can lead to immediate impaired judgment and memory, difficulty walking, blurred vision, slowed speech, and slowed reaction times. Blackouts and memory lapses are also common, as are hangovers, which include headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and difficulties concentrating.
• Injuries – driving while under the influence is still responsible for losing the lives of over 10,000 people every year in the United States. In addition to the fatalities, there are other injuries, as well as drownings, falls, and burns which occur while people have been drinking alcohol.
• Violence – tragically, violence is also one of the risks of consuming alcohol. This includes suicide, homicide, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
• Alcohol Poisoning – many people do not realize that we can actually overdose on alcohol. Too much alcohol in our bloodstream can actually cause our bodies to start shutting down, leading to permanent brain damage or death.
• Risky Behaviors – the use of alcohol increases our chance of engaging in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. Engaging in risky sexual behaviors may result in sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.
• Pregnancy Complications – for women who are pregnant, drinking alcohol is especially dangerous to the unborn child. Alcohol use puts the pregnancy at high risk for miscarriage or stillbirth, or the fetus at risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which can impact the child for life.
Long-Term Health Risks
Lesser known are the risks that we take with our long-term health when we use alcohol. We probably all know people who have been drinking long-term, whether socially or otherwise. These habits can lead to long-term risks to our health such as the following:
• Brain – alcohol interrupts the reward and communication pathways within the brain. Long-term, alcohol use can cause memory, learning, and coordination problems, including dementia and poor motor skills.
• Heart – we may have heard that alcohol use can cause serious heart issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke. More specifically, however, even one binge drinking session can cause problems like cardiomyopathy, or the stretching and drooping of the heart muscle. It can also cause arrhythmias, which are irregular heartbeats.
• Liver – alcohol is known to impact our liver, which can include steatosis or fatty liver; alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Many of these conditions can be very serious, even causing death.
• Pancreas – alcohol use can cause a dangerous condition called pancreatitis, which is an inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels within the pancreas, preventing proper digestion.
• Cancer – alcohol consumption has been directly linked to a number of specific types of cancer, including mouth, throat, esophageal, liver, breast, and colorectal cancers. The chances of cancer developing as a result of alcohol consumption increase with the amount of alcohol consumed over time.
• Immune System – drinking alcohol can cause long-term damage to our immune system. For example, those who drink chronically have a higher rate of contracting diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis. Even drinking heavily on a single occasion can lower our immune system for 24 hours, making us more susceptible to infections.
• Mental Health – the consumption of alcohol is well known to produce depression and anxiety, which can be devastating enough to deal with on their own. However, a bigger risk is that those mental issues can also lead to suicidality and even suicide.
• Social – the social consequences of alcohol use are extensive. From family and relationship problems, lost productivity at both home and work, to unemployment, and even incarceration. The longer we continue in our alcohol use, the greater the consequences in our lives.
• Addiction – we may also develop a dependence upon or addiction to alcohol, which is difficult to recover from and can include any or all of the symptoms listed above.
The health risks of alcohol use can be immediate or long-term. They can be short-lived or impact our lives and the lives of others long-term. The risks can impact our mental health, our physical health, or our relationships with other people. Our consumption of alcohol can take lives, whether our own, our unborn child’s, or others. Do the risks match the reward? Are we already living the negative consequences of our alcohol use? Are we ready to make some positive consequences? Perhaps “drinking responsibly” is not drinking at all?
When you are ready to make positive consequences in your life and the lives of all of those around you, make the call. ContactRancho Milagro Recovery at (951) 526-4582. We are prepared to help you make an end of your alcohol use and improve your mental, physical, and emotional health. We can show you the road to recovery, and you can take control of your life again. Lose the risks and gain your life.