Alcohol Has Many Effects On The Body
When alcohol is consumed at a party, it is probably done so to achieve an overall feeling of well-being. When people drink, they do so for the immediate effects of it. They want to feel the increased confidence, reduced inhibitions, and decreased worries that are common with alcohol use. The only problem is that the negative effects of alcohol can be seen long after these good feelings wear off. In fact, alcohol can affect the way each individual body system works. Some of these effects can be seen immediately, while others take many years to develop.
The Effects Vary
First, it is important to realize that the effects of alcohol can vary greatly from person to person. There are many determining factors that can make someone react to alcohol a certain way. Some of these factors include the type of alcohol consumed and how much is consumed. For example, one-and-a-half ounces of hard liquor will have the same effect on the body as five ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer.
Also important is the gender, age, and weight of the person consuming the alcohol. Women absorb alcohol quicker than men, regardless of body weight. Women also tend to weigh less, so the alcohol affects them more. If the person drinking consumes food or water before, during, or afterwards, the effects will not be as severe. Even prior health conditions and medications can affect what the alcohol does to the body once it hits the bloodstream. Here is a brief overview of the short-term and long-term effects of alcohol on the body.
The Short-term Effects of Alcohol
The effects of alcohol begin as soon as five minutes after consumption. The person drinking the alcohol will start to become talkative and relaxed. Soon, inhibitions will disintegrate and judgment will be impaired. The body will be more difficult to move and it will be hard to see clearly. As drinking is continued, the person’s blood alcohol content continues to rise, and even more effects are experienced. If enough alcohol is consumed, the person may even lose bladder control, find it difficult to breathe, and lose consciousness. If a person’s blood alcohol content reaches 0.30%, the ultimate side effect is experienced: death. Here is a more in depth look at how alcohol affects certain areas of the body in the short-term.
- The Brain – The majority of the above symptoms are a result of the effects of alcohol on the brain. They are caused from the neurotransmitters getting slowed down. Thinking is stalled and motor functions are greatly impacted. The amount of road accidents and falls resulting in injury are greatly increased after alcohol is consumed. These are the quickest effects of alcohol, and they will dissipate as the alcohol leaves the system, which only takes a few hours of soberness.
- The Immune System – Another major short-term effect of alcohol is the body’s ability to fight infections. Instead of white blood cells being able to fight off anything they come into contact with, they are slowed down and cannot destroy germs like they are supposed to. This not only makes alcohol drinkers susceptible to the common cold and flu viruses, but it can also make them more likely to contract tuberculosis, pneumonia, and even HIV. Immunity is affected for up to 24 hours after alcohol is consumed.
The Long-term Effects of Alcohol
Even though the short-term effects of alcohol can cause immediate grief, the long-term effects are nothing to be forgotten. They may not be noticed immediately, but after long-term drinking, alcohol can cause some serious issues in the body.
- The Brain – Once again, the brain is impacted from drinking; however, the long-term effects are completely different than the short ones. These effects are much more severe, as the brain structure can be transformed and the brain cells can shrink. This can lead to memory problems and an inability to learn. Additionally, the drinkers’ emotions will be impacted and they may experience mental disorders. Motor coordination can also be decreased over time. The shrunken brain cells can also make temperature and sleep regulation difficult. The effects on the brain are multi-faceted, as they can affect a person’s personal life and professional life. It is important to note that these effects are usually reversible once alcohol use is ceased.
- The Heart – Luckily, very few short-term effects from alcohol can be seen on the heart; however, the same cannot be said for long-term effects. Over time, alcohol decreases the strength of the heart. It becomes impossible for the heart to pump the necessary blood to the vital organs, resulting in fatigue, shortness of breath, and heart failure. Alcohol may also cause the heart to beat irregularly or too slow, which can cause blood clots and stroke. All of this being said, if alcohol use can be controlled to less than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, alcohol may actually have some positive effects on the heart. It can lower the amount of fat buildup in the arteries, which means a lower chance of a heart attack or stroke.
- The Liver – Since the liver is responsible for breaking down the alcohol in the body, long-term drinking can lead to liver damage. Not only that, but when the alcohol is broken down, a harmful toxin is created that can damage the liver’s cells and lessen the body’s ability to defend itself. Fat buildup in the liver is also a common long-term effect of alcohol usage. If the liver cannot function the way it was intended to, the body is susceptible to malnutrition and harmful substances.
Alcohol Can Even Cause Cancer
The fact that alcohol can cause cancer does not fall under the short-term or long-term category. That is because it can only take one drink for the cancer to be triggered, but the results may not be seen for years to come. The reason behind this is because the cancer gene is something that people are born with. However, that does not mean they will actually get cancer. A lot of times, the gene stays dormant until it is triggered by something. Alcohol can be one of these triggers. Another reason is because the toxins that are produced when alcohol is broken down by the body can damage cells, making them reproduce too fast, which is a common trait of cancer. The most common cancers seen in drinkers are cancers of the digestive tract, including the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, and stomach. Breast and liver cancer also have high rates among drinkers. These risks are greatly increased if someone smokes as well as drinks.
It’s Not All Bad
While the above effects can be very scary and life threatening, it is important to realize that drinking alcohol is all about control. If drinking is limited, it can be enjoyed without many of the effects listed above. However, both binge drinking and frequent drinking need to be avoided to escape many of the mentioned effects. If at any time addiction is suspected, it is important to seek help immediately to lower the effects of alcohol on the body.