Physical Effects of Alcohol: Short-Term and Long-Term Risks

It is the most common type of liver injury diagnosed in heavy drinkers. Prolonged excessive alcohol use may cause three types of liver disease. This includes steatosis (fatty liver), cirrhosis, and alcohol-related hepatitis. All of these diseases disrupt liver function, resulting in serious damage to the body over time. While only a healthcare provider can diagnose an alcohol use disorder, there are several physical and behavioral signs that may indicate an individual struggles with their alcohol use.

  • These effects might not last very long, but that doesn’t make them insignificant.
  • In fact many physicians prefer to use the word dependence because addiction is such a loaded word that carries all types of prejudices with it.
  • The best practice would be to talk with an addiction counselor or mental health professional about safe options to detox from alcohol.
  • Individuals with drinking problems improve their chances of recovery by seeking help early.
  • “Depressants don’t cause depression, but they may make a person feel disinterested and slowed down cognitively,” explains Natalie Christine Dattilo, PhD, a clinical & health psychologist and founder of Priority Wellness based in Boston, Massachusetts.

If you think you may be dependent on alcohol, you should consult your doctor or another medical professional before stopping drinking. You could speak to a health professional at your GP surgery, or there are also a number of national alcohol support services that you can confidentially self-refer to for advice and support. Alcohol consumption increases your risk of injuries, liver disease, heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, cancer, and more. Besides severely affecting your physical and mental health, alcohol can also lead to social and legal problems. These diseases disrupt liver function, severely damaging the body over time.

Other Ways Alcohol Can Affect Your Life

The opioid crisis is so bad that the U.S. government declared a public health emergency. Speak with your doctor if you have become physically dependent on a medication or other substance. In some cases, alcohol abuse may exacerbate conditions but not cause them.

Moreover, after receiving some of these medications, animals exhibited lower relapse vulnerability and/or a reduced amount consumed once drinking was (re)-initiated (Ciccocioppo et al. 2003; Finn et al. 2007; Funk et al. 2007; Walker and Koob 2008). These findings have clear clinical relevance from a treatment perspective. Indeed, clinical investigations similarly have reported that a history of multiple detoxifications can impact responsiveness to and efficacy of various pharmacotherapeutics used to manage alcohol dependence (Malcolm et al. 2000, 2002, 2007). Future studies should focus on elucidating neural mechanisms underlying sensitization of symptoms that contribute to a negative emotional state resulting from repeated withdrawal experience. Such studies will undoubtedly reveal important insights that spark development of new and more effective treatment strategies for relapse prevention as well as aid people in controlling alcohol consumption that too often spirals out of control to excessive levels. Alcohol dependence is thought to represent a persistent dysfunctional (i.e., allostatic) state in which the organism is ill-equipped to exert appropriate behavioral control over alcohol drinking.

End-Stage Alcohol Abuse

Binge drinking and consuming alcohol excessively for many years can lead to alcoholic hepatitis. It occurs due to fat build-up in your liver cells, which causes scarring and extreme inflammation. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is another example of psychological withdrawal.

physiological dependence on alcohol

Nor does the absence of family drinking problems necessarily protect children from developing these problems. For many people, drinking alcohol is nothing more than a pleasant way to relax. People with alcohol use disorders, however, drink to excess, endangering both themselves and others. This question-and-answer fact sheet explains alcohol problems and how psychologists can help people recover. Nonetheless, alcohol abusers often put themselves in dangerous situations (like driving under the influence) or have legal or social problems (such as arrests or arguments with family members) due to their drinking. We review here and invite your questions about physical addiction to alcohol at the end.

You Experience Any Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal When You’re Not Drinking

For example, how easily available alcohol is, how much it costs, and pressure from friends, family or colleagues to drink. Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), provide a community of people going through similar struggles. These groups offer emotional support, accountability, and guidance in maintaining sobriety. From there, enzymes in your liver break down about 95 percent of the alcohol you consume.

It develops when you misuse alcohol despite knowing its adverse effects. Heavy alcohol use impairs brain functions, such as memory and reasoning. Scientists have linked frequent alcohol use to depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and self-harm (e.g., suicide attempts and cutting). However, for more frequent alcohol users, hangovers Man serving sentence for attacking parents fails to return to halfway house and considered escapee can seriously affect the quality of your life and lead to mental, physical, social, and interpersonal issues. Teenagers’ brains are still developing, which makes them more susceptible to adverse physical and mental health effects. This occurs when fat builds up in the liver due to long-term alcohol consumption or obesity.

How doctors diagnose alcohol dependence

A health care provider might ask the following questions to assess a person’s symptoms. With these conditions, you’ll only notice symptoms during alcohol intoxication or withdrawal. Long-term alcohol use can affect bone density, leading to thinner bones and increasing your risk of fractures if you fall.

When you stop using the substance, you experience physical symptoms of withdrawal. Caffeine is an example of a common substance that causes physical dependence. If you can’t function properly in the morning without your cup of coffee, it could be that you are caffeine-dependent. When you miss your morning cup, you might develop physical withdrawal symptoms, like a headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and more. Too much alcohol affects your speech, muscle coordination and vital centers of your brain.

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