Mental Health & Substance Abuse THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL ABUSE
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Drinking alcohol to excess is harmful to your health. Each year, from 2011 to 2015, alcohol abuse led to approximately 95,000 deaths and 2.8 million years of potential life lost.
If you visited your primary care physician recently, you were likely asked how many alcoholic beverages you drink in a week. Did you tell the truth when you answered? 32% of women and 50% of men lie to their doctors about their alcohol consumption. *
Why does your doctor need to know?
Physicians ask about your drinking because the amount and frequency of alcohol you consume produce significant effects on your overall health.
Your typical day includes a glass of wine or two with dinner. During the weekend, you attend a social event during which you drink a couple of cocktails or more. You never experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. Your alcohol consumption hasn’t negatively affected your relationships. You’re not an alcoholic, right?
This may surprise you:
90% of excessive drinkers are not by definition alcoholics. You do not need to be an alcoholic for alcohol to take a heavy toll on your health and cause serious social problems. You also may not realize that alcohol (ethanol) is defined both as a drug and a toxin.
Excessive alcohol consumption, according to the CDC, is responsible for 88,000 deaths per year and costs the U.S. more than $200 billion annually
What Is Considered “A Drink?”
A “drink” or “alcoholic beverage” is defined as 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. These all have an identical level of alcohol. It is a common misconception that wine, wine coolers, or even beer are not as dangerous as “hard” liquor. For that reason, they may be more dangerous.
How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?
Alcohol Abuse Statistics
What Are Some Problems Caused By Too Much Drinking?
Alcohol And The Liver
The liver is a large organ located under the ribs on the right side of the body. It filters waste, makes bile to digest food, stores sugar used for energy, and produces proteins that work throughout the body. One of the important proteins causes blood to clot. Persons with end-stage liver disease can bleed to death, especially from the abdomen.
Alcoholic liver disease is caused by the heavy use of alcohol. The liver’s job is to break down alcohol. If you drink more than it can process, it can become badly damaged. Once it completely fails, it cannot heal. You can’t live without your liver.
Alcoholic liver disease is common and preventable. There are 3 types. Many heavy drinkers progress through all 3 types over time.
The most common type of alcohol-induced liver disease is fatty liver. Sometimes fatty liver does not cause symptoms, but it will often cause right-sided upper belly pain. Weight loss, as well as fatigue and weakness, are common.
Alcoholic hepatitis is severe inflammation of the liver. Liver cells die and cause permanent liver scarring. This is caused by long-term alcohol abuse. Appetite loss and weakness are common. People with hepatitis are acutely ill and have jaundice, yellowing of the skin and eyes.
Alcoholic cirrhosis is the breakdown of healthy liver tissue. This causes all of the symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis. Poor nutrition, intestinal bleeding, fluid in the belly, kidney failure, and confusion occur. This is irreversible liver failure. Liver cancer often occurs with cirrhosis
The effects of alcohol on the liver depend on how much and how long you have been drinking alcohol. *
Head And Neck Cancer And Alcohol
Drinking alcohol is one of the major risk factors for head and neck cancer (HNC) and causes approximately one-third of the cases worldwide. These cancers are in the throat, nose, sinus, and mouth. The more alcohol consumed, the more the risk for these cancers increase. Drinking alcoholic beverages, even for a short period, increases the risk of these cancers.
It’s different for oropharyngeal cancer. This is a specific area behind the mouth in the middle of the throat. How long alcohol is abused and how much has been consumed are both factors in developing this cancer. *