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Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

July 10, 2022

Even without the diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder, excessive drinking can lead to long-term issues. The outcomes can range from chronic diseases to early death. Recognizing the potential long-term effects of alcohol abuse before they occur can help you make a choice to start recovery quickly and safely with medical detox. 


Heavy drinking for a long period of time can have devastating consequences on the body’s vital organs. Heart, liver, kidney, and brain function can be negatively impacted from a man’s 15 drinks per week or a woman’s 8 drinks per week. Heart-related issues from long-term drinking include high blood pressure, stroke, and heart failure. Liver and kidney damage are a potential outcome, too. Quitting drinking alone can present serious risks to a person as withdrawal symptoms can be severe and deadly. The safest form of alcohol withdrawal is under the supervision of medical personnel in a detox facility with round-the-clock care. 


What Is Heavy Drinking?

Heavy drinking is defined differently for men and women. In men, heavy drinkers consume 15 drinks or more in a single week on average. In women, heavy drinkers consume 8 drinks or more per week. Heavy drinking may be done daily or a person may binge drink. Five drinks for men and four drinks for women on one occasion is considered binge drinking. 


Heavy Drinking and the Heart

Long-term effects of drinking can negatively impact the heart in multiple ways. Arrhythmias may develop, whether occasional or lasting more than seven days. A disease of the heart muscle known as cardiomyopathy is another possible outcome of long-term drinking. High blood pressure can be a consequence, and it can lead to other heart-related issues, such as stroke and heart failure. 


Heavy Drinking and the Brain

Long-term alcohol use also affects brain function. From short-term effects like blackouts and memory loss, the results can grow in severity over the years to encompass muscle coordination issues, nerve paralysis, and the inability to form new memories. In addition, chronic use of alcohol is often a cause of thiamine deficiencies, which can lead to brain damage and death if left untreated. 


Heavy Drinking and the Liver

The liver’s ability to break down alcohol gets disrupted when alcohol use damages the organ. Over time, long-term drinking can result in a variety of stages of liver disease. They include a fatty liver that develops as fat deposits in the liver tissue and can start liver enlargement. Alcoholic hepatitis is the progression of liver disease with liver inflammation, liver cell death, scarring, and fibrosis. The third stage, liver cirrhosis, is marked by scar tissue and the loss of liver function. If a person stops drinking, some of this third-stage damage may be reversible. 


Cirrhosis Symptoms 

● Scarred, shrunken liver

● Enlarged spleen

● Portal hypertension

● Intestinal bleeding

● Worsening jaundice

● Fluid retention in the abdomen

● Confusion (i.e., hepatic encephalopathy)

● Pain

● Weakness

● Fever

● Nausea

● Loss of appetite/weight loss

● Abdominal distension as a result of fluid buildup


Heavy Drinking and the Kidneys

Long-term effects of alcohol abuse can damage the kidneys and disrupt their ability to filter waste and regulate water in the body. The damage to the kidneys can be a result of untreated high blood pressure from heavy drinking. Long-term drinking also can cause muscle tissue to break down and enter the bloodstream. Muscle proteins in the bloodstream can lead to kidney damage and kidney failure. 


Heavy Drinking and the GI System

Long-term effects of alcohol abuse include inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Left untreated, it can lead to a higher risk of swelling and irritation in the esophagus, resulting in symptoms such as heartburn, acid reflux, and trouble swallowing. A heavy drinker may experience nausea, belching, heartburn, a sensation of fullness, and bloating as the lining of their stomach becomes inflamed. Inflammation of a part of the small intestine may cause gas, pain, burning/cramping in the stomach, nausea, and vomiting.


Heavy Drinking and Cancer

Long-term effects of drinking can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancers. Just three drinks per day can increase the risk of head and neck cancers by 2-3 times. Heavy drinking has also been linked to esophageal cancer, especially in people with lower amounts of key metabolic enzymes. Liver, colorectal, and breast cancer risks rise with long-term drinking as well. Alcohol’s interference with the body’s ability to absorb and utilize many vitamins is partly to blame. 


Medical Detox Is a Safe Solution to Start Recovery

The risks of medical complications from alcohol withdrawal are serious. It’s why this kind of withdrawal should be facilitated by medical personnel only. In a supervised setting with round-the-clock care, a person can safely experience withdrawal symptoms and prepare for their ongoing recovery needs. 


Restored Path Detox is DFW’s premier location for sophisticated medical detox. Conveniently located in Frisco, we provide a safe sanctuary for healing that is also a state-of-the-art detoxification facility for a wide range of substances. Our compassionate physicians and therapists want you to get well and are committed to removing any existing barriers to your care. Restored Path’s team of board-certified physicians and highly qualified nursing team have extensive critical care experience and monitor our drug and alcohol detox center near Dallas 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you or a loved one are struggling with drug or alcohol use, contact us today and take your first step towards recovery: 469-827-0000.

If you or a loved one are struggling with drug or alcohol use, call us today and take your first step towards recovery: (469) 827-0000.

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