Many people drink alcohol regularly at celebrations, get-togethers, happy hours, and at the end of a long day. While drinking in moderation is typically thought to be “okay,” drinking heavily or struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD) can negatively impact your physical health.
With that said, any amount of alcohol affects your body. There aren’t a whole lot of positive health benefits of drinking alcohol. However, there are a lot of adverse health impacts and dangers of alcohol abuse you should know about so you can make wise decisions about your drinking habits.
If you are struggling with alcohol use disorder and want to cut back on how much you drink or quit drinking entirely, we can help.
How Much Alcohol is “Too Much?”
The term “moderation” is pretty vague when it comes to how much alcohol is considered “safe” to drink. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderation is one
or fewer drinks per day for women and two or fewer drinks per day for men. While this amount has historically been said to be okay, there actually isn’t any amount of alcohol that is technically “safe” since even moderate drinking can potentially harm your brain and body.
Not to mention, a “standard” drink may not be what you think it is. In the U.S., one standard alcoholic beverage contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol. Those 14 grams equate to:
- 12 oz. regular beer
- 5 oz. wine
- 1.5 oz of distilled spirits
Just like many portion sizes in the average American diet, many alcoholic beverages served contain a lot more than the “standard” amount of alcohol.
The bottom line is, as the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans says, if you’re going to drink alcohol, drinking less is better for your health than drinking more. That may seem obvious, but it can also be challenging to remember, especially since you don’t necessarily see how alcohol affects the body in negative ways right away.
Short-Term Effects of Alcohol on Your Body
You may think only large quantities of alcohol can harm your body. And while there are many dangers of alcohol abuse, even small amounts have negative impacts.
How alcohol affects your body in the short term can be broken down into different areas of your body, including the following:
- Your Brain: While alcohol can help you feel temporarily pleasant and euphoric, it’s not without its consequences on your brain. When you drink alcohol, it slows down the chemicals and pathways in your brain. This leads to altered mood, slow reflexes, and issues with balance. Alcohol can also negatively affect sleep, memory, and learning.
- Your Heart: Drinking alcohol expands blood vessels and increases your heart rate, causing additional blood flow to your skin. This is why you feel warm when you drink. When the heat passes through your skin, your body temperature falls.
- Your Digestion: The first place alcohol is broken down is in your stomach. Then, it’s broken down and absorbed through the small intestine and colon. As it passes through these areas of your digestive system, it can irritate your small intestine and negatively impact the speed of food digestion. This can result in uncomfortable side effects like bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
- Your Kidneys: Even though alcohol is a liquid, it actually dehydrates you. And when your body is dehydrated, it can affect kidney function.
- Your Liver: Your liver is the primary workhorse in metabolizing alcohol. It filters the blood in your system and destroys toxins, which include alcohol. This is the liver’s job, but if you overwork it, you can stress your liver to the point of doing permanent damage. This is one of the most significant dangers of alcohol abuse.
If you’ve ever overindulged in alcohol, you understand what the aftermath feels like. A hangover is when your body is stressed as a result of drinking too much alcohol. This can lead to headaches, dehydration, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and indigestion.
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol On Your Body
There are many dangers of alcohol abuse. If you drink heavily for years, you can damage vital organs and put yourself at risk of developing several health issues. How alcohol affects your body over time is a serious issue you need to be aware of. Some of the side effects of heavy drinking include the following:
- problems with concentration and memory
- difficulty focusing and completing tasks
- increased conflict in relationships
- weakened immune system
- persistent mood changes
- changes in sexual function and libido
- appetite and weight changes
Heavy drinking poses the following long-term health risks:
- Liver health: If you drink heavily over a long period of time, your liver has to work overtime, increasing your risk of
- fatty liver
- liver cancer
- alcoholic hepatitis
- Brain health: One of the dangers of alcohol abuse is its negative impact on your brain. Drinking heavily not only negatively affects your memory but it can also cause:
- loss of brain matter
- brain shrinkage
- Heart health: Excessive drinking also harms your cardiovascular health. It can result in:
- arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- Bone health: Believe it or not, heavy drinking can also weaken your bones, leading to fractures, broken bones, and gout.
- Cancer risk: Alcohol is a known carcinogen. That means when you drink alcohol, you put yourself at an increased risk for developing certain kinds of cancer, including:
- breast cancer
- liver cancer
- esophageal cancer
- head and neck cancer
- colorectal cancer
As you can see, how alcohol affects the body is a pretty serious issue. Not only is it damaging to relationships, finances, and work and school performance, but it also physically harms your body. The dangers of alcohol abuse also extend to potentially putting others in danger due to impaired judgment and drunk driving.
Seeking professional alcohol treatment in San Diego is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved ones.
Looking for an Alcohol Rehab in San Diego? Choose BOLD Health.
We understand choosing to get help for your drinking habits can be scary. But, as you’ve read, it can potentially save your life! At BOLD Health, we provide individualized, compassionate, and evidence-based alcohol treatment in San Diego. Depending on your level of need, your enrollment in our alcohol rehab in San Diego may include:
- alcohol detox
- individual therapy
- group therapy
- family therapy
- medication management
- intensive outpatient program (IOP in San Diego)
At BOLD Health, we take a holistic approach to alcohol treatment in San Diego. We don’t simply focus on your symptoms of addiction; we focus on all of you – your genetic, biological, historical, and structural makeup. By better understanding what makes you who you are, we can tailor your treatment specifically to you.
Don’t wait to see the negative impacts of drinking on your body present themselves. If you are a heavy drinker, damage is being done, whether you see it or not. Getting help sooner rather than later can improve and extend your life.