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Alcoholism Side Effects

Alcoholism Side Effects

We’ve all seen alcohol at events and gatherings before, from weddings to Super Bowl celebrations. There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks every once in a while or drinking responsibly overall. However, did you know that almost 14% of adults in Kentucky reported binge drinking at least once in 2021? Things like binge drinking and heavy drinking can be signs of, or lead to, alcoholism. What exactly is alcoholism, though? How does it impact your body? Today we’re going to be looking into alcoholism side effects, how they can affect you, and what you can do about them.

Here at SUN Behavioral Health Kentucky, we strive to help our community be able to be who they want. This means ensuring people have access to vital information regarding their health so they can make informed decisions when they need it most. Alcohol consumption is one of the most common forms of substance use, but not everyone knows how impactful it can become. That’s why we want to talk about the signs of alcoholism. Knowing what to look for can help people be more aware of the changes that might be happening within them. 

How Does Alcoholism Affect Your Body? 

Alcoholism isn’t just a person who drinks every once in a while. For someone to have alcoholism, otherwise known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), there are a few things that have to be true. 

  • Alcohol takes up a large portion of your time - This means much of your day or week is taken up by either thinking about, consuming, or recovering from alcohol use.
  • You can’t lessen your consumption, even if you want to - Whether trying to stop entirely or even just cut back on the number of drinks you usually drink, you find you cannot.
  • Your drinking is impacting your relationships - Drinking is disrupting one or more of your platonic, romantic, or work relationships in some way, shape, or form. 
  • You’ve started skipping activities you love because of alcohol - Things that used to be important to you, like family events, hobbies, hanging with friends, etc have a lower importance than spending your time drinking alcohol.

For someone with an AUD, there are ways that alcohol can start to impact your body. Let’s talk about a few of those.

Liver Damage

The liver is one of the main processing organs in the body. Because alcohol is actually considered a toxin, it’s the liver’s job to properly filter and flush the alcohol from your system. Consistent or heavy drinking, however, can start to impact the liver and its functionality. This impact slowly worsens over time and has a few stages to it. 

  • Steatosis - This is when your liver develops too much fat within it. This can lead to inflammation, which damages the tissue and can leave behind scars. The process of scarring within the liver is fibrosis.
  • Fibrosis - Scarring within the liver decreases its functionality overall. If left untreated, this can lead to cirrhosis.
  • Cirrhosis - This is where liver dysfunction becomes most noticeable, with side effects such as fatigue and severely itchy skin. If cirrhosis continues to develop, you can experience liver failure. 

The Central Nervous System

Alcohol is a depressant that primarily affects your central nervous system, so it might not surprise you to know that this system can be impacted by continuous or frequent alcohol consumption. This can lead to an increased risk of strokes, behavioral changes, and even interfere with your ability to think clearly and move without stumbling.

Alcoholism and Mental Health

Alcoholism can impact your mental health in many ways, from the effects of the alcohol itself on your body to how it can impact your life as a whole. 

Alcohol use can lead to the potential development of depression and anxiety, but sometimes alcohol use can stem from mental illnesses in the first place. It’s not uncommon for people to use alcohol as a means of managing an already existing mental illness.

An AUD can also impact the lives around you, leading to potential trouble within relationships or in the workplace. The aftermath of this can lead to added strain on your mental health.

What are the Side Effects of Alcoholism?

Alcohol consumption can impact your body both short-term and long-term. Let’s look further at some of the side effects you could experience because of an AUD. 

Short-Term Side Effects of Alcoholism 

The short-term side effects are the ones you might experience during or shortly after drinking. Some of the most common side effects include:

  • Impulsive behavior
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Difficulties focusing
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Slurred or slowed speech
  • Memory loss

Long-Term Side Effects of Alcoholism

The continued, regular presence of alcohol within the body can impact it in many ways. While some people may believe that the main damage done by an AUD is to the liver, it can have consequences in many areas of the body.

The pancreas can be affected by long-term use, leading to an increased risk of pancreatitis. You can also develop problems within the digestive system. One of the most common developments is gut leakiness. Gut leakiness can occur from damage done to the lining of your digestive tract, leading to a worsened filtering of toxins as well as discomfort and inflammation.

Some other things that can develop from an AUD include problems with memory, changes in weight and appetite, a weakened immune system, as well as insomnia and other sleep conditions. The risk of cancer greatly increases throughout the body with long-term alcoholism as well, cancers such as oral, liver, esophageal, and even colorectal cancer.

What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning occurs whenever your body is unable to process the amount of alcohol within your body. For other substances, this is commonly referred to as an overdose. With continued alcohol consumption, your chances of experiencing alcohol poisoning can increase, especially if you have damaged your liver, reducing its ability to properly process the alcohol within your body. Alcohol is a toxin, and when there’s too much of a toxin within the body, it can start to shut down.

Alcohol poisoning shouldn’t be “slept off” and can lead to complications if a person isn’t cared for properly. If you notice any of the signs below, you should seek medical help.

  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting
  • Pale or blue-tinted skin
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Slowed breathing
  • Seizures

Getting Help For Alcohol Use Disorder in Kentucky

Taking the steps to recover from alcohol use can seem daunting, especially when withdrawal symptoms can range from annoying to deadly, luckily our team at SUN Behavioral Health here in Kentucky is ready to help. We offer everything from detox to inpatient and outpatient services, giving you the options to find your best path toward recovery.

Detox is especially helpful for an AUD. It’s a way to safely go through the process of withdrawal, surrounded by medical staff who will ensure you are safe and comfortable during the process. This can allow you to start focusing on your recovery instead of having to worry about your withdrawal symptoms.

Inpatient and outpatient allow you to continue your recovery after detox in a way that works best for you. Inpatient is when you stay on-site, surrounded by staff and others going through recovery, while in a safe environment geared towards healing. During your time there, you will go through both individual and group therapy while also getting the chance to learn new skills and hobbies that will aid you during recovery.

Outpatient treatment can be an extension of inpatient, a transitional phase, or the option you go to right after detox. It offers the same treatment services as inpatient but allows patients to go home and not be on-site every day. This can be especially beneficial for patients who need to maintain a job or continue to be with family during their recovery.

Alcoholism Treatment

If you have any questions about our treatment programs or the options that might work best for you, give us a call today at 859-429-5188 and our staff will be happy to help you.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is alcoholism?

Alcoholism, otherwise known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is defined by a few things: how much time drinking takes up in your day, how much it's impacting your relationships and workplace, and if you’re able to cut back on your consumption on your own.

Can the side effects of alcoholism be deadly?

Yes, from strokes to liver failure and even cancer, some of the long-term effects of alcoholism can be deadly.

What is alcohol poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is when the body has more alcohol within it then it can safely process. Alcohol is a toxin to the body and if there’s too much within your body, it can cause your body to start to shut down.

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