Almost 70% of Americans over age 18 reported drinking alcohol in 2019, and that was before the added stress of an ongoing pandemic. Recent data suggest that future surveys will report a dramatic spike in alcohol use throughout the country since the start of the pandemic. For many, alcohol has provided a source of relief in the face of the potent cocktail of stress, anxiety, depression and isolation brought on by COVID-19. Helpful though it may be, those same factors can drive a person to use alcohol to the point of abuse, leading to destructive consequences, addiction and irreversible health problems. Learning the risks of alcohol abuse can help protect you from the dangers of overindulgence.
Alcohol’s Effects on Your Physical Health
Even if you consider yourself a moderate drinker, a consistent habit can damage your body, sometimes irreversibly. Alcohol can harm your heart and blood vessels, creating a state of chronic high blood pressure and causing heart disease. Drinking puts you at significantly higher risk for liver disease, liver cancer and numerous other liver problems. Alcohol has been conclusively linked to cancers of the mouth, throat, colon, breast, as well as stroke. All these risks are increased with prolonged use.
On top of the bodily consequences, even a seemingly conservative amount of alcohol can put you at substantially higher risk for a wide range of dangers. People who drink have seriously elevated chances of:
Motor vehicle accidents, drowning, fires and other accidental deaths;
Violent behavior, domestic violence, sexual assault, suicide and homicide;
Risky sexual behavior;
And numerous problems involving pregnancy and childbirth.
Alcohol’s Effects on Your Mental Health
Alcohol begins to affect your mind from the first sip. As alcohol builds up in your system, you can experience effects like impaired judgment, reduced reaction time, loss of balance, slurred speech, distortion of reality, belligerence and sexual aggression. Even after alcohol has left your system, the consistent habit of introducing it can lead you to develop mood swings, depression, anxiety, restlessness and the inability to sleep without drinking. These symptoms can mark the early onset of psychological dependence.
Prolonged alcohol use can have detrimental effects on your brain and nervous system. Over time, alcohol can lead to memory loss and dementia, isolation, antisocial tendencies and varying forms of mental illness. People with long-term alcohol habits are also statistically more likely to experience a variety of home life problems like unemployment, family violence, child neglect and financial trouble.
Long-Term Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
If you think that you or a loved one may have a serious alcohol problem, you’re not alone: the National Survey on Drug and Health (NSDUH) reported that nearly 15 million people had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2019. An alcohol use disorder is a condition characterized by an inability to stop or control your drinking even in the face of negative consequences. A person who struggles with an AUD may continue drinking despite seeing destructive effects on their physical health, career, relationships and other aspects of their life. Without help, an alcohol use disorder can lead to personal ruin, overdose, coma and death. If your alcohol use is causing serious problems in even one area of your life, it’s time to take a hard look at your habits to determine whether you might need to make a change.
Even if you don’t have an alcohol use disorder, your drinking can still pose a threat to your wellbeing and others around you. Alcohol claims around 95,000 deaths in the United States every year, making up about 10% of preventable adult fatalities. Excessive alcohol use includes binge drinking and heavy drinking. The CDC defines binge drinking as having 5 (for men) or 4 (for women) or more drinks at once, and heavy drinking as having 15 (for men) or 8 (for women) or more drinks per week. Both of these practices are linked to elevated risks for numerous health problems including liver disease, stroke, mental illness, cancer and injury.
When to Get Help for Alcohol Dependence
If your relationship with alcohol is beginning to create problems in your life, don’t hesitate — get help now. By the time you’ve noticed a pattern of destructive behavior, however small, you may have already reached a point of substance abuse consistent enough to necessitate professional help in transitioning back to safety. Even if you don’t have an alcohol use disorder, regularly drinking enough to interfere with your life puts you at risk for experiencing negative withdrawal symptoms.
Left untreated, alcohol abuse can seriously damage your health, relationships, career, home life and personal development. Reaching out for professional help can ensure you a smooth, guided route out of alcohol abuse and back into stability. The sooner you reach out, the better your chances are of avoiding unpleasant withdrawal symptoms or letting the habit wreak further havoc in your life.
The relief that alcohol provides can make it hard to admit that your drinking has become a problem. If you’re noticing negative effects in your personal or professional life, or are simply concerned about your habits, don’t wait to talk to a healthcare professional. If left untreated, alcohol can seriously damage your health and overall livelihood. At Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford, New Jersey, we’re equipped and ready to help you strike a balance that allows you to live your best possible life. We treat the whole person, not just your symptoms, and our goal is to help you thrive and become the person you truly wish to be. Whether you’re struggling with addiction, mental illness or co-occurring disorders, we have the compassionate staff and effective resources necessary to overcome your obstacles and get back on track. Don’t let dangerous habits get any worse. Call us today at (877) 557-5372 to learn more.