April is Alcohol Awareness Month, an observance that aims to reduce the stigma associated with alcoholism by reaching out to the American public with information on alcohol, alcohol addiction, and recovery. Alcoholism is a chronic disease defined by uncontrolled drinking and preoccupation with alcohol. People are often genetically predisposed to alcoholism. The disease could be fatal if not properly addressed; however, it is not a death sentence, as millions of alcoholics have recovered.
Drinking alcohol in moderation may not be a problem, but issues begin to develop when people start drinking heavily over a longer period of time. Alcohol abuse can lead to very serious consequences. It can harm individuals and damage relationships and society. It can lead to drunk driving accidents, violence, and crime.
Long-term effects of alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol will bring immediate effects such as nausea and vomiting. Binge drinking and heavy drinking over prolonged periods can cause the following effects:
- Brain damage – Binge drinking can result in passing out, memory loss, and feelings of anxiety. Long-term drinking may cause permanent brain damage, mental health problems, or alcohol dependence. Young people who drink alcohol indiscriminately are more prone to brain damage because their minds are still in the development stages. Long-term consumption of alcohol can affect behavior and the ability to remember and learn.
- Cancer – Drinking alcohol poses a high risk for cancers of the mouth and throat. Alcoholism can also lead to cirrhosis of the liver and ultimately to liver cancer. Drinking alcohol also increases the risk of breast cancer among women.
- Heart and circulation – Drinking too much alcohol can cause hypertension, which increases a person’s risk of having a stroke or heart attack and developing some types of dementia. Drinking can also result in the weakening of the heart muscles, which eventually affects the brain, liver, lungs, and other body organs. It may also lead to heart failure. Prolonged drinking of alcohol may also result in arrhythmia, a condition where the heart beats irregularly.
- Lungs – Lung infections are common among people who drink heavily and may lead to collapsed lungs or pneumonia. There are also instances when a person vomits after drinking, only to have the vomit run into the lungs with dangerous results.
- Liver – Alcoholic drinks may cause fat deposits to form in the liver, causing inflammation and also leading to alcoholic hepatitis that can cause the liver to fail.
- Skin – Alcohol can not only make you feel badly, it can also damage your appearance. It can lead to premature wrinkles, depleted collagen and elasticity, redness, and dry and puffy skin.
If you suspect that you are drinking too much, be honest with yourself and get the help you need. Alcohol is not worth the toll it can take on your health and appearance.