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Alcoholism Side Effects

Alcoholism Side Effects

Almost 39% of young adults in Ohio report having binge drank in the past year. The more alcohol you consume, whether in one sitting or over time, the more likely you are to feel the side effects. So what are alcohol’s side effects? Are they dangerous? Are they a warning sign of something more?

Here at SUN Behavioral Health in Columbus, we offer more than just treatment for our patients, we offer education and information for our whole community. We want to help ensure the well-being of all, not just those who walk in and out of our doors. 

Alcohol side effects can appear in a variety of ways, short-term and long-term, mental and physical. Let’s learn more about how alcohol can impact the body and what side effects can pop up because of it.

What Effects Does Alcohol Have on the Body?

Alcohol is a depressant. This means it primarily impacts the central nervous system, slowing it down. Due to how it passes through your body, it can impact your brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and even bones. It also increases your risk of developing several forms of cancer. 

These are only things you need to worry about if you’re binge drinking or drinking often. Generally speaking, a session of consuming alcohol is considered binge drinking when a person consumes more than 5 drinks within a few hours. A drink is classified as either 12 oz. of beer, 8 oz. of malt liquors, 5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. of spirits or liquor.

Alcohol and Liver Damage

The liver is the processing center of your body, filtering substances such as alcohol through the body in order for you to properly eliminate it. When the liver isn’t working properly, or a person consumes too much alcohol at once for the liver to handle, this can lead to alcohol poisoning (otherwise known as alcohol overdose).

Continual or heavy drinking can start to damage the liver over time. Not only can it increase your risk of liver cancer, but you could also develop things such as steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, or cirrhosis. 

Alcohol Central Nervous System

Over time, the continued presence of alcohol within your system can cause your brain to adjust its ways of behaving. This can happen with any regular substance use and does not mean that your body is somehow less prone to any of the negative effects that can come from heavy or long-term alcohol consumption. This is simply the setup for alcohol withdrawal, which is your body’s reaction to a lack of a substance it had grown accustomed to. 

In addition to withdrawal, the brain and central nervous system can be impacted in other ways by alcohol consumption. When you drink alcohol, it interferes with your central nervous system, which is the brain’s communication network. This is slows down your reflexes or lowers your inhibitions when you are drunk.. Over time, this can impact your memories and ability to process thoughts. It can also increase your risk of stroke. 

Alcoholism and Mental Health

As mentioned earlier, alcohol is a depressant. This means that, over time, you can develop depression as a result of continued alcohol use. In addition, some people develop anxiety over time. It’s not uncommon for people managing an alcohol use disorder to also be managing a mental illness. This is called a co-occurring disorder. Here at SUN, we address both AUDs and mental illness in order to best treat our patients.

Short-Term Side Effects of Alcoholism 

Short-term side effects are those that pop up sooner. Here are some of the short-term effects of alcohol use disorder and binge drinking:

  • Increase in violent behavior
  • Injuries from reckless behavior
  • Increased risk of STIs from lowered decision-making abilities

Long-Term Side Effects of Alcoholism

In addition to the results mentioned above, there are other side effects that can develop from long-term alcohol use disorder. 

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of various forms of cancer
  • Increased chance of dementia
  • Weakening of the immune system

Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal can happen as soon as 6 hours after your last drink, whether from long-term alcohol use or binge drinking. These symptoms tend to peak within the first 72 hours, but some symptoms can last up to a few weeks afterward. 

  • Irritability
  • Changing mood
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Aches and pains
  • Cravings
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Seizures

One of the other conditions that can happen during withdrawal is delirium tremens. It is a result of withdrawal and can be fatal. Delirium tremens has many of the same side effects as withdrawal along with a few more. If you notice a loved one starting to experience high blood pressure, confusion, shaking, a fever, seizures, or hallucinations seek medical help. 

Alcohol Poisoning

Sometimes referred to as an alcohol overdose, alcohol poisoning is when your body has too much alcohol within it. This can lead to systems shutting down, as well as other reactions. As your body starts to shut down, you can experience symptoms such as slurred speech, confusion, lack of coordination, vomiting, slowed breathing, low body temperature, blue-tinged skin, unresponsiveness to stimuli, or full unconsciousness. 

If you notice someone experiencing these symptoms, call for medical assistance and stay with the person while you wait. In some cases, the poisoning can lead to brain damage, coma, or even death. 

Getting Help For Your Alcoholism Today

Alcohol use disorder can be life-altering, but taking the steps towards recovery can help get you back on the track you want to be on. Here at SUN Behavioral Health, we offer you assistance along every step of your healing journey, from detox to inpatient and outpatient treatment. 

Detox gives you a safe, stable environment to go through alcohol withdrawal while being surrounded by licensed, medical professionals who will help ensure your safety and comfort along the way. With the severity of some withdrawal side effects from alcohol, and the discomfort of cravings and other side effects, alcohol detox can help you start focusing on your healing journey. 

After detox, you will sit down with your medical team to determine what steps will be best for you and your recovery. One of those options is our inpatient treatment program. This allows you to stay on-site 24/7 in a safe environment where you can focus solely on your recovery. During your stay, you will go to individual and group therapy sessions as well as other skill and hobby-based lessons to help you strengthen your recovery. 

Another option is outpatient treatment. For some, this is the step they take after detox, for others, it might be a transition between inpatient and afterward. Outpatient therapy offers many of the same programs as inpatient while allowing patients to go home or not be on-site every day. This can also work especially well for those who are working or taking care of family.

If you or a loved one is looking to start your path to recovery, or you have any questions at all, give us a call today at 614-706-2786.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is classified as the inability to control alcohol use, despite potential social or health-based consequences occurring as a result.

Can the side effects of alcoholism be deadly?

Yes, the long-term effects on your body can increase the chances of cancer, dementia, and many other illnesses.

What is alcohol poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning, or alcohol overdose, occurs when too much alcohol is within your system for your body to handle. 

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