Reclaim Your Life: The Physical & Emotional Symptoms of Alcoholism

Alcohol's Effect On The Body: Physical & Emotional Symptoms

Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs, but most don't understand how dangerous it can actually be. Read this article to know of alcohol's effect on the body, physically and mentally.

In 2015, there were 15.1 million adults in the United States who had alcohol use disorder (AUD). Every year, almost 90,000 people will die from alcohol-related causes.

If you or someone you know suffers from alcoholism, it's important they get help before it's too late. Alcohol's effect on the body can have severe and life-threatening consequences.

This article is meant to inform you of the changes the body experiences through alcohol abuse. The knowledge may save your and your loved ones' lives.

A Short History of Alcohol

People across the globe enjoy drinking alcohol.

In many European countries, consumption is a social characteristic of the culture. Even in America, what is the Super Bowl without a beer or two?

When consumed in moderation, drinking alcohol can be a pleasurable and fun experience. It has been for a long time.

Let's put it this way: the Weihenstephan brewery, which still stands today, was founded by Benedictine monks in A.D. 1040. If you think that's old, it might interest you to know that the Chinese were making alcohol 9,000 years ago.

Studies have shown that certain drinks, such as wine, can have beneficial health effects when they are drunk sparingly. However, liquor isn't healthy when it's drunk often. And like many other drugs in the world, it can very quickly become addicting.

How Alcohol Works

The alcohol that comes to mind when we think of any liquor is ethanol. Because it is deadly in high doses, no liquor contains 100% ethanol.

Depending on the beverage, the concentration varies:

  • Beer - An average 4.5% alcohol concentration
  • Wine - An average 11% alcohol concentration
  • Champagne - An average 12% alcohol concentration
  • Distilled spirits - An average of 40% alcohol concentration.

Where distilled spirits, such as rum or vodka, are concerned, the concentration can be anywhere from 49 to 95%.

When we drink alcohol, we are quite literally poisoning our bodies.

When alcohol is consumed, it is absorbed by the stomach and small intestine before entering the bloodstream. There, it makes its ways to the tissues in the body, producing effects on the body and mind.

Alcohol's Effect on the Body

Over-consumption of alcohol has more effects on the body than most people realize.

The Brain

Alcohol directly interferes with the brain's communication pathways and can cause much more damage than the dizziness and clumsiness associated with alcohol use.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states, "[H]eavy drinking may have extensive and far-reaching effects on the brain, ranging from simple 'slips' in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions that require lifetime custodial care."

Drinking too much alcohol too quickly may also lead to memory lapses.

However, continued use can mean irreparable consequences.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome effects alcoholics who do not receive the right nutrition, which is a common occurrence in cases concerning AUD. It involves muscle coordination issues, paralysis of the eyes and confusion.

Almost all victims of this syndrome will also suffer from persistent memory and learning problems.


Because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it causes the slurred speech and slow reactions we all recognize. The functions of the areas of the brain in charge of decision-making processes and peace-keeping also decrease.

This is why alcohol is usually partnered with violence and inappropriate behavior.

Spirits are especially linked to negative moods while beers and wines may create a more positive sensation in the drinker.

The moods associated with drink types vary by individual, but researchers have also discovered that heavy drinkers are six times more likely to experience negative emotions after drinking, regardless of the type of alcoholic beverage.

This further explains the association of alcohol with various offenses. In one study, researchers found that 86% of homicide offenders were drinking at the time of the act. It is also correlated to abuse and assault.

The Heart

Drinking excessively can have catastrophic effects on the heart.

It can lead to high amounts of fat in the blood, increasing the likelihood of cardiovascular disease and strokes.

In fact, some studies indicate middle-aged drinkers have a 34% higher chance of having a stroke than light drinkers.

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy can also form. After extensive alcohol abuse, the heart muscle is weakened. Generally, symptoms are not noticeable until heart failure occurs.

Signs of cardiomyopathy include fatigue, shortness of breath and swelling in the extremities.

Heart arrhythmia, or the irregular beating of the heart, may also manifest. A recent study by German researchers during Oktoberfest found that the heart's ability to vary its rate based upon its owner's breath was decreased.

Finally, alcohol has been directly linked to higher blood pressure.

The Liver

Almost everyone realizes the liquid can have damaging effects on the liver, but perhaps many people don't realize the extent of the dangers of alcohol in this area.

Irresponsible drinking can cause fat build-up in the liver and hepatitis, which occurs when the liver tissue swells and dies.

About 15% to 30% of heavy drinkers will experience cirrhosis, an advanced form of liver disease.

Other Effects

This list only covers the basics.

Alcoholism can quite literally affect nearly every part of the body. It can weaken the immune system and cause pancreatitis. Heavy drinkers are even more susceptible to certain cancers.

Treating AUD

Treating those who suffer from heavy drinking can be a tricky process.

To avoid further health repercussions, it is necessary that a drinker is weaned off the alcohol. During this time, they will experience withdrawal.

Adding to complications, many users are unaware or unwilling to admit they have an addiction.

Detoxification alone can take up to two weeks or more, but the recuperation period depends largely on the unique characteristics and willingness of the individual.

Aftercare is especially important to avoid potential relapses.

You Are Not Alone

Alcohol's effect on the body can have life-altering effects on the abuser as well as the ones around him or her.

To properly establish and execute treatment, it's necessary that AUD victims receive the professional help they deserve. During this time, they will need the support of friends and family. However, that does not mean the rehabilitation process is limited to these individuals alone.

Trained individuals can be there to help you through every difficult step on the journey to recovery. Please use our website to find the best rehab for your needs or call us today.