Alcoholism is a chronic, widespread disease with far-reaching effects and complications. For example, in addition to physical effects like liver disease and an increased risk of cancer, prolonged alcoholism can result in complications like legal and financial difficulties, domestic problems, and more. The following is an in-depth look at the effects of alcoholism, which includes information on seeking treatment for this debilitating disease.
The Effects of Alcoholism
In the United States, an estimated 51 percent of individuals ages 18 and over are regular drinkers. Of those, nearly 18 million are suffering, or have suffered, the effects of alcoholism. Characterized by intense cravings for alcohol and the onset of withdrawal symptoms if use is discontinued, alcoholism is the result of repeated, excessive drinking despite the existence of negative effects. These effects are often progressive and can affect virtually every area of health and well-being. For example, common effects of alcoholism include the following:
- Poor judgment. The sedative effects of alcohol lead to lowered inhibitions, which often result in risky behaviors like driving under the influence, unsafe or promiscuous sex, violent behaviors, and more. In effect, common risks include motor vehicle accidents, unplanned pregnancy, the transmission of STDs and legal problems.
- Liver disease. Over time, repeated alcoholism can have severe effects on the liver. Of these effects, the most significant include increased risks of hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fatty liver disease.
- Digestive problems. Heavy drinking can result in inflammation of the digestive tract, which can lead to ulcers, gastritis, and an increased risk of developing certain digestive cancers.
- Cardiovascular problems. Alcoholism can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other complications relating to heart health.
- Bone loss. Alcoholism can affect bone density, which increases risks associated with osteoporosis, bone fractures, and more.
- Eye disease. Due to nutrient deficiencies associated with alcoholism, many heavy drinkers experience complications like eye weakness, vision loss, and paralysis of the eyes.
- Neurological disorders. Alcoholism can have a variety of effects on the nervous system, some of which can result in nerve pain, numbness, memory loss, dementia, and more.
- Increased risk of cancer. In addition to liver and digestive cancers, alcoholism is associated with an increased risk of breast, colon, mouth, and throat cancers as well.
In order to prevent the risks and complications associated with alcoholism, professional treatment is usually necessary. In addressing the various causes, symptoms, and effects of alcoholism, inpatient treatment is often the most effective in helping patients achieve and sustain sobriety, improve health, and enhance overall quality of life. For example, as opposed to self-care or outpatient therapy, residential treatment provides benefits like the ones listed below.
- Constant monitoring, care, and support. Through residential methods, professionals are able to incorporate sobriety and healthy choices into the daily lives of patients. The result is an increased chance of a healthy, lasting recovery from alcoholism and other types of addiction.
- Reduced distractions. Inpatient treatment provides a safe, nurturing environment, free from the distractions and temptations of the outside world, where patients can fully commit to the recovery process.
- Intensive therapies. Inpatient care allows specialists to provide intensive, comprehensive therapies in the treatment of alcoholism. For example, techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, are typically more effective in an inpatient setting. This treatment, which is designed to help patients identify and modify unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, is often used in treating addiction and has proven effective at promoting sobriety and enhancing health and well-being.
Alcoholism is a pervasive, life-threatening disease. If you or someone you know are suffering from this illness, seeking immediate treatment is recommended.