Health Conditions Affected By Alcohol Use

Health Conditions Affected By Alcohol Use

Table of Contents

Effects of Alcohol on the Body

Many people do not realize that drinking too much, even just once, can dramatically impact vital body systems. For this reason, it is vital to understand the health conditions affected by alcohol use. The effects of alcoholism or alcohol use disorder impact all vital body systems, including your heart, brain, digestive system, muscular system, and more.

Cardiovascular Health Risks

Long-term alcohol addiction or excessive drinking (even on a single occasion) can lead to heart damage, including irregular heart rates, stroke, elevated blood pressure and cardiomyopathy (changes to the heart muscle), and other diseases of the heart.

Brain Health Risks

Alcohol use disorder affects the structural and functional properties of the brain. It can interfere with the brain’s ability to communicate with the body while changing how it looks. These changes can lead to alterations in mood, behavior, cognition, and coordination. 

Immune System Risks

Excessive alcohol use can lead to reduced immunity. Someone with an alcohol use disorder is more likely to develop illness or disease than those who do not drink. Additionally, binge drinking or drinking excessively in a short time limits your body’s ability to fight infection or illness. 

Musculoskeletal Health Risks

Risk to the muscle and skeletal systems include movement problems, seizures, coordination, reduced blood flow, and muscle atrophy.1

Pancreatitis Risks

The pancreas is a large organ behind the stomach that produces hormones and digestive enzymes. It regulates blood sugar and secretes digestive fluids into the stomach. Alcohol use causes the pancreas to produce toxic fluids that can eventually lead to developing pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a dangerous disease characterized by inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas preventing proper digestion. 

Increased Risks of Cancer

Alongside the previous list of health conditions affected by alcohol use, a wide range of scientific evidence suggests there is a strong link between alcohol and several types of cancer. The National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Service lists alcohol consumption as a known human carcinogen.2 Available evidence indicates the more a person drinks, the higher their risk of developing alcohol-related cancer.

Liver Cancer

Alcohol consumption damages the liver in various ways. One of these is an increased risk of liver cancer with heavy alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking leads to double the risk of two types of liver cancer hepatocellular carcinoma and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. 

Head and Neck Cancers

Moderate to heavy drinking has been linked to an increased risk for certain head and neck cancers, including throat, voice box, and the mouth (excluding the lips). 

Breast Cancer

Studies have shown an increased risk of developing breast cancer that parallels alcohol intake. Data indicates light drinkers have a slightly increased risk (compared to non-drinkers), whereas heavy drinkers have nearly double the risk. 

Bowel cancer

Bowel cancers or colorectal cancers are another health condition affected by alcohol use. Moderate to heavy drinking is associated with as much as a one and a half times higher risk of colon and rectal cancers when compared with no drinking. 

Digestive Problems

effects of alcohol on the body arrow passage recovery

Excessive drinking can produce several unpleasant and, at times, very severe effects on the digestive system. 

Diarrhea and Vomiting

Vomiting and diarrhea are common effects of drinking. When you drink, the stomach produces electrolytes and water to counter the sugars in the substance, leading to loose stools. Additionally, alcohol triggers stomach inflammation which produces more acid again, leading to diarrhea.

Vomiting can occur because of excessive drinking in one sitting, irritation of the stomach lining, or not eating enough before consuming alcohol. Excessive diarrhea and vomiting may be signs of a more dangerous condition or could lead to dehydration. 

Gastritis and Ulcers

In addition to the issues with vomiting, excessive or heavy drinking can lead to various digestive struggles such as ulcers, acid reflux, and stomach inflammation, which is also known as gastritis.4 Alcohol-related damage to an individual’s stomach and digestive system can lead to internal bleeding and other dangerous conditions. 

How to Treat Health Conditions Affected by Alcohol Use

If you or a loved one experiences the symptoms of alcoholism, it is essential to seek addiction treatment at a facility like Arrow Passage, where a team of addiction treatment professionals can provide support and guidance throughout the detox and addiction treatment process.

Depending on your needs, our Ohio treatment centers offer various levels of care designed to help you achieve your treatment goals. Whether you would benefit from inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the nature and severity of your addiction. For some, an inpatient program may be better suited to help you meet your needs. For others with a mild addiction, outpatient treatment may provide an appropriate level of therapy and support to help you achieve and maintain lasting sobriety.

If you or a loved one experiences health conditions affected by alcohol use, contact Arrow Passage Recovery today to learn more about our treatment programs and how our treatment teams can help you overcome alcohol addiction.