Bodily Breakdown: The Physiological Effects of Chronic Overuse of Alcohol

With the stressors of contemporary life (and a freakin’ pandemic!), chronic alcohol use is on the rise. This has some severe implications for...

With the stressors of contemporary life (and a freakin’ pandemic!), chronic alcohol use is on the rise (Czeisler et al., 2020). This has some severe implications for the future health of thousands and thousands of individuals struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Chronic overuse of alcohol can result in a litany of problems for several major bodily systems:

Cancer

Once imbibed, your body converts the ethanol into acetaldehyde which is a well-known carcinogen (Na & Lee, 2017). In-fact, long-term alcohol use has been found to increase the risk of developing mouth, throat, larynx, esophageal, and colorectal cancers (CDC, 2021).

Organ Damage

Liver → The liver is responsible for detoxifying harmful substances, including alcohol, in your body to protect your cells from harm. When the liver is given chronically high levels of alcohol to metabolize it begins to break down over time. Eventually the liver will become scarred and inefficient at detoxifying all chemicals in the body, a condition known as cirrhosis. At this stage the only solution is a liver transplant (Dguzeh et al., 2018)!

Pancreas → Years of significant alcohol use can severely damage the pancreas. The acetaldehyde produced in the metabolism of alcohol can cause oxidative stress on the pancreas. Additionally, alcohol can cause the premature activation of digestive enzymes in the pancreas, leading to self-digestion and acute pancreatitis (inflammatory disease of the pancreas). These pathologies can cause significant impairment in the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, breakdown food, and can ultimately cause death (Klochkov, Pujitha Kudaravalli, & Sun, 2020)

Heart & Cardiovascular System → Binge drinking has been found to significantly increase the development of hypertension (high blood pressure) (Piano, 2017). High blood pressure increases the likelihood for the development of heart disease, aneurysm, stroke, and damage to your arteries (Mayo Clinic, 2019).

In high levels, alcohol is responsible for many many physiological issues in the body. To protect your body from these significant pathologies it is important to maintain safe and responsible use of alcohol. For those struggling with addiction, it is never too late to take steps toward a healthier life! This pandemic has been incredibly damaging to our mental health and has instrumened the relapse of many individuals struggling with substance use (Czeisler et al., 2020). The only way we can make it through these tough times is by providing our friends and family with unconditional love and support!

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