Seventy-six million people are dealing with alcoholism at various stages. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, it’s essential you know the degree of alcohol’s damage on the body you’re dealing with.
In our comprehensive guide, not only are we going to detail the effects of alcohol, but we’re also going to provide information on the health issues caused by drinking and signs that you need to be on the lookout for.
The only way to ensure healing is to seek help from a treatment facility that can provide you with the tools you need to begin living a life of sobriety free from all substances and alcohol use.
Get ready to find the answers and help you’ve been looking for after scrolling through this post!
What Is AUD?
The term for alcoholism is alcohol use disorder or AUD, and it’s when someone craves alcohol and drinks it in excess. There are several reasons a person might depend on alcohol, ranging from emotional to physical need.
For example, someone that has never had a drink before in their life might begin drinking initially because of pressure from their peers. After that first drink, they find themselves drinking more often throughout the day and finding reasons to have a drink.
Prolonged alcohol abuse can lead to several health problems for the person drinking. Some of the most common health problems caused by excessive alcohol ingestion include:
- Increased risk of heart failure
- Irreversible liver damage
- Certain cancers
- High blood pressure
If you’re not sure that someone in your life is suffering from alcohol dependence, there are some signs you should be on the lookout for.
Someone in the early stages of alcoholism might not have a need to go to the bar or other places with alcohol frequently. Another thing to remember is that everyone who drinks in excess doesn’t always exhibit signs like falling over.
If you begin to notice that someone in your life is binge drinking, which is when someone decides they’re going to drink and has a significant number of drinks in a short amount of time. Heavy drinking is when someone has an excessive number of drinks until they physically can’t drink anymore.
While it’s important to know that one instance of binge drinking doesn’t necessarily mean someone has an issue with alcohol, it is something to keep your eye on.
Rapid Weight Loss
Another key sign that someone’s developing an addiction to alcohol is if they begin to lose weight at a drastic pace. Typically, people that are alcoholics aren’t concerned about eating.
The only thing on their minds is finding a way to get their next drink and satisfy their craving for alcohol. However, one thing that happens when someone drinks frequently is they’ll begin to develop a belly.
Jaundice is when a person’s skin and eyes begin to yellow in color because the liver isn’t doing what it’s meant to do. For someone that suffers from severe alcohol abuse, this is known as ‘fatty liver disease’.
When the liver sustains damage, a person’s skin will begin to yellow over time. The person might find that their abdomen is especially sensitive, and they suddenly have no appetite.
It’s essential to see and doctor to have a diagnosis confirmed to move forward with treatment, but as you know, the first recommendation any doctor will give is to stop drinking at once.
Desire to Stop Drinking
You might be wondering why this would be a sign that someone has issues with alcohol. The reason is when someone expresses a desire to stop doing something, what they’re saying is they want to stop, but don’t know how.
While someone who suffers from alcohol abuse might have a strong desire to do better and turn their lives around, it doesn’t mean they’ll stop drinking. They will need help from a certified treatment facility to detox and learn ways to cope with triggers that lead them to drink.
Neglecting Daily Responsibilities
When you spend time drinking excessively, one of the first things that happen after you’ve had your last drink is withdrawal. During withdrawal, a person can experience several ailments, including:
- Excessive sweating
The only option for most that are addicted is to seek out their next drink regardless of having to be at work or take children to school. If you or someone you know begins to neglect their responsibilities, it’s signs that there’s a problem.
It might start subtly with missing a day or two of work here and there. Then it becomes neglecting these responsibilities more, and you find yourself not caring about these things as your addiction takes over.
If your loved one is never late paying a bill or does the grocery shopping, it might be strange that all of a sudden, they never have money to cover basic necessities. If someone in your life has recently gone from having money saved to not having any at all, it’s a sign of addiction.
They might even begin to look for other means to make money, including asking you to loan them money with the process to pay it back. The only thing is it won’t be the last time they ask, and it’s likely you’ll never receive the money you loaned to them.
Blacking Out Every Time They Drink
Some people can have one drink and stop, but for someone dealing with alcoholism, this isn’t the case. They’ll continue to drink until they have no alcohol left, or to the point of blacking out.
If you find that you blackout when you drink, or have more times that you can’t remember as a result of drinking, it’s time to seek help because you have a problem.
Not remembering what happens during a night out or blacking out can land you or others that you’re with in dangerous situations.
Levels of Alcoholism
There are different levels of alcoholism that people suffer from. Each step a person takes on the alcoholism stage chart brings them closer to having a severe addiction.
The first stage is the experimentation stage, which is when someone’s curious about drinking or, as we mentioned earlier, is pressured to drink. For people in this stage, it’s not uncommon for someone to test how much they can drink before they’ve reached their limit.
People in the experimentation stage can binge drink without needing to drink daily. The next stage is an increase in the amount of time they spend drinking.
A person will find themselves creating reasons, such as reducing stress or needing to escape their emotions as a reason to drink. From there, the amount of drinking increases and starts to become a problem because it’s taking the place of other activities.
During this stage, the relationships in someone’s life might begin to suffer because of their alcohol intake. After this step, it becomes evident that there is a clear dependence on alcohol.
The onset of withdrawal symptoms characterizes this dependence after the last drink has been ingested. The final level of alcoholism is full-blown addiction.
This is when people stop finding made-up reasons to drink, and do so because they want to enjoy the way the alcohol makes them feel. Now that we’ve given some insight into the different levels of alcoholism, it’s time to look deeper into how alcohol affects the body.
Reduces the Size of Your Brain
Not only does drinking long-term affect how your brain processes chemicals and sends messages to the body, but it also affects how the brain looks. Over time, excessive drinking will cause your brain to shrink in size.
When you consume alcohol, it suppresses a chemical known as glutamate. Glutamate is responsible for increasing your brain activity and the energy you have throughout the day.
Constant consumption of alcohol suppresses this chemical, which in turn slows down the brain’s processes. The hippocampus will begin to shrink in size, which can lead to issues with your memory.
Not only will it affect your ability to remember things, but it also affects your body’s ability to regulate its temperature and maintain control over your body’s movements.
Causes Sleep Issues
We know when you drink, it might seem as if you get all the sleep in the world after blacking out, but this isn’t the case. When you drink in excess, the kidneys and liver begin to work overtime to flush the toxins out of your system.
If you’re asleep, this means you’re going to spend more time waking to use the bathroom, which interrupts your ability to reach the REM state of sleep.
Not only are you going to get up repeatedly to use the bathroom, you’re going to also spend a significant amount of the night tossing in your bed restlessly. Another problem for people that drink consistently is the presence of vivid and sometimes scary dreams.
As the body continues flushing the alcohol out of its system, it increases a person’s ability to recall their dreams, even ones that you’d rather forget.
Increased Stomach Acid
No one enjoys throwing up, especially when the only thing coming out is stomach acid. Stomach acid can cause your esophagus to be sore and affect your teeth over time.
Alcoholism increases the amount of stomach acid present in your stomach. When there is too much acid within the stomach, it can irritate the stomach’s inner lining, causing stomach pains for the person experiencing these symptoms.
Because your stomach is in a constant state of irritation, you find yourself throwing up more often, which can lead to an increase in painful ulcers. It also means your body isn’t getting the proper amount of nutrients necessary to keep you healthy, because they’re being purged from the body when you’re sick.
Damage to the Pancreas
Not only do the liver and kidneys sustain damage from long-term alcohol abuse, but your pancreas also sustains damage as well. The pancreas is responsible for producing the insulin your body needs to help break down the food you eat.
However, drinking lots of alcohol can inhibit the pancreases ability to do this. Alcohol can also lead to increased pancreatic inflammation, leading to difficulties producing insulin in the future.
If your body can’t produce insulin on its own, the chances of you having diabetes increase. It can also lead to pancreatic cancer, which is just one of the types of cancers that long-term drinkers can suffer from.
Your heart beats to a distinct rhythm, and drinking alcohol can affect this rhythm, leading to irregularities. Your alcohol intake can lead to your heart overworking and cause permanent damage that can lead to the heart giving out.
It’s important to remember that the heart is a muscle, and if it’s being overused, the muscles change and can snap much like a rubber band being pulled unnecessarily. When your heart has irregularities, it means it can’t do its job.
The heart’s job is to push blood throughout the body to ensure each organ has what it needs to continue functioning correctly.
The damage that alcohol does to your body can cause damage that can’t be reversed, or cause you to be on medication and in medical treatment for the rest of your life.
With this in mind, the only answer is to enter treatment and get the help you need to stop this damage before it becomes severe.
What to Expect in Treatment?
If you’re thinking about entering treatment, there are several things that you can expect to happen. We’re going to walk you through the steps of treatment to ensure you’re equipped with the information you need to find a treatment center that will meet your needs.
Keep in mind there are several types of treatment programs to choose from, and each will offer different forms of treatment for those that seek treatment in their facilities.
You’ll sit down with the facility intake coordinator during the intake process and offer information about your medical history and addiction. During this time, someone will perform a routine search of your valuables to ensure you’re not bringing alcohol or other substances into the facility.
It’s essential that you answer each question honestly during the intake process because they’re going to use the answers you’ve given to ensure your program is customized for your needs.
From there, you’ll be taken to the area where you’ll stay during the time you’re in the detox phase of treatment. It only harms you if you’re not honest, because your plan won’t be created properly to meet your needs.
It’s normal to feel uneasy about this step, especially if you’re unsure if you can live life sober, but trust us, the hardest step to take is the first step.
The first step in treatment is the detoxification process. Depending on the type of facility you’ve entered, you might detox in a hospital before going to the facility, or you may detox on-site.
Detox is an essential first step because if your mind and body aren’t free from toxins, you’re not going to approach treatment with an open mind and receive the information that counselors are trying to give to you.
Keep in mind that everyone goes through withdrawal, but it varies in length. Several factors contribute to how long you spend withdrawing, including:
- The severity of your addiction
- How many drinks do you have each day
- Your age
These are just a few of the things that contribute to how long you remain in withdrawal, but always remember that withdrawal isn’t comfortable. It’s very unpleasant; the staff of the treatment facility is on hand to ensure that you’ll have what you need in case your symptoms become severe and threaten your life.
Physicians will monitor you during detoxification and keep track of changes that take place before you begin treatment.
Once you’ve made it through the worst of withdrawal, you’ll begin to participate in routine addiction therapy sessions. It’s common for facilities to offer group therapy sessions.
In these sessions, you’ll share stories with others in treatment about where you’ve been and things you’ve learned during your time in treatment. This is important because it gives you people to identify with.
You’ll also participate in individual therapy sessions with your assigned counselor. In these sessions, you’re going to dig deeper into your addiction and uncover things like:
- What led to your addiction?
- Coping tactics for after treatment
Your counselor will also help guide you through the 12-step recovery program. There are several steps, such as making amends and learning to forgive yourself for the things that took place when you were in active addiction.
It’s essential to have a deep understanding of your triggers because it will be challenging to identify them and stay away from them if you don’t. Also, you and your counselor won’t be able to determine effective coping mechanisms to combat these triggers without knowing your triggers.
Other Forms of Counseling
Treatment facilities don’t just offer counseling to people that are looking to become sober. They also provide other forms of counseling that are meant for families.
For example, if your family has a history of codependency and enabling, it’s essential they work through this and get help not to enable you in the future.
This can be done in therapy, where a family will come together to work through issues that might’ve been present prior to your addiction or occurred as a result of your addiction. Therapy is necessary because it gives families a neutral space to discuss their problems.
If your family is used to arguing, you can rest assured this isn’t going to happen in therapy. The counselor will guide the conversations and act as an unbiased opinion to help navigate this rough time to ensure the family grows stronger together and can begin to repair damaged relationships.
Discussion About Aftercare
Even after you’ve completed treatment, this doesn’t mean you’re ready to go back into the environment you left. There’s no need to worry because an essential part of planning is discussing your aftercare options.
This means discussing moving into sober living homes where you can remain in a structured environment for some people. Keep in mind these sober living homes will still have rules and requirements that all residents must abide by.
The difference between treatment and aftercare is you’re allowed to work and do things like go to school. Sober living helps to teach you the necessary life skills needed to be out on your own.
During these planning sessions, you’ll discuss options for continued therapy sessions, whether that’s at the facility or another licensed facility. You’ll also talk about having medical evaluations to check on underlying issues that might have been covered due to your alcohol addiction.
Understanding Alcohol’s Damage on the Body
For most people, drinking brings them pleasure and a way to escape from things that they might be running from, but one thing they don’t think about is alcohol’s damage on the body. Not only does it inhibit the way the brain works, but it also makes it challenging for the body to function, leading to permanent damage.
With the dangers of alcohol in mind, it’s time to do something about it. Are you looking for a quality alcohol rehab facility in Northern California? Wellness Retreat Recovery has the resources you need to take control of your life back. Contact us today.