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We all know that addiction can destroy a life, taking away family, friends, employment and peace of mind. But heavy drinking can have a significant impact on your health—even if you never cross the line into addiction.
The most well-known of these is liver damage. Fatty liver, also called steatosis, is the earliest and most common form of alcohol-related liver disease. It’s basically what happens when there is too much fat inside of liver cells, making it harder for the liver to function. Fatty liver can occur fairly quickly—even within a few weeks—in people who drink heavily.
Cirrhosis, the most severe form of alcohol-related liver disease, happens when scar tissue replaces normal tissue. It occurs in about 10 to 20 percent of heavy drinkers after years of excessive alcohol consumption.
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What Can Alcohol Cause?
In addition to liver damage, there are many ways that heavy drinking can damage the body.
- The circulatory system. Heavy drinkers have a higher risk of heart-related issues, including heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure.
- Cancer. Heavy drinkers have a higher risk of certain cancers, including mouth, breast, threat, liver and colon.
- The pancreas. Around seven out of 10 cases of chronic pancreatitis are due to long-term heavy drinking.
- The digestive system. Heavy drinking can, over time, damage the tissues in your digestive tract, which can prevent your intestines from absorbing nutrients, leading to malnutrition. Heavy drinking can also cause gassiness, bloating and diarrhea.
- Reproductive health. Heavy drinking can lead to erectile dysfunction in men and also infertility in women.
- The skeletal and muscular systems. Long-term alcohol abuse may result in thinner bones, putting one at risk for fractures. Drinking alcohol can also lead to muscle weakness.
- The immune system. Heavy drinking can weaken the immune system. Pneumonia and tuberculosis are more common among those who abuse alcohol.
The long-term effects of alcohol are not limited to the body. Alcohol abuse can cause mild to moderate intellectual impairment. It can also change the way the brain works, leading to lower dopamine levels.
The bottom line? While science continues to debate the merits of moderate drinking, there is universal agreement that heavy drinking is bad for your body and your mind—and puts you at risk for the devastating effects of alcohol addiction.
Hope at The Raleigh House
Once a person loses control over his or her alcohol consumption, they need help—which is a science-based reality, not a sign of weakness. The alcohol treatment program at The Raleigh House in Denver, Colorado, takes a whole-person approach to recovery, using therapy, nutrition, exercise, peer support and even community involvement. The goal isn’t just to be alcohol free. It’s to live a full and interesting life. Fill out our form or call today for more information on launching the next phase of your life.