Alcoholism is a destructive, and very often deadly, addiction. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that approximately 80,000 deaths can be attributed, each and every year, to excessive alcohol intake. Deaths like this aren’t mandatory, however, as people who are addicted to alcohol can and do find recovery with the help of a professional treatment program for addiction. While some problems related to alcohol may never fully disappear, many may diminish with the time and abstinence brought about through rehab.
That healing can only take place, however, when people choose to put down their drinks and ask for help.
Alcoholism rarely appears suddenly. Instead, the disease tends to progress in a series of steps that increase in intensity. Spotting the signs early could allow families to step in and provide meaningful help, before severe damage takes place.
Unfortunately, the early or adaptive stage of alcoholism is often easily hidden, as the only outward sign is an increased tolerance to alcohol with few side effects. An alcoholic in their early stages of addiction may appear similar to non-alcoholics who happen to drink regularly. They can drink much more than their counterparts, and they seem to enjoy doing so, but their cells are being damaged with each sip they take.
If the drinking doesn’t stop, physical dependence can develop, which means an individual will need to drink in order to combat the ill effects of being without alcohol. This physical dependence is often coupled with intensified cravings for alcohol and a loss of self-control regarding the amount of alcohol consumed. A person like this might drink so much that blackouts or memory loss take hold.
The late or deteriorative stage of alcoholism is virtually unmistakable; almost constant drinking, confusion, malnutrition, respiratory infections, and even financial trouble are hallmarks of this addiction. People like this might have severe difficulties on a daily basis, all due to the addiction process, and the person might still find it hard to quit.
Physical Effects on the Body
Alcoholism is often defined as a form of mental illness, in which the person simply cannot stop drinking due to cravings for alcohol. But, the disease can also take its toll on a person’s body and physical functioning. Those who continue to drink in an alcoholic pattern can develop serious physical problems, including:
- Irregular heartbeats and high blood pressure, which increase the chances for a heart attack or stroke
- Liver damage, including inflammation, cirrhosis, hemorrhage, cancer, and eventual failure
- Brain damage, manifesting as hallucinations, impaired senses, damaged motor skills, dementia, psychosis and personality changes
- Swollen tonsils, salivary glands, thyroid and lymph nodes
These problems can take place in both men and women, but they might appear earlier in women who drink. Women process alcohol through their bodies differently than men for a variety of physiological reasons, not just because of size or weight. Dehydrogenase, an enzyme found in the liver that helps to break down alcohol, is found in smaller amounts in the female body. Additionally, premenstrual hormonal changes and medications containing estrogen (such as birth control) slow the elimination of alcohol.
Women may also experience more heartache due to alcoholism as they may drink while pregnant and impact the health of the growing baby in the process. The March of Dimes suggests that no amount of alcohol is safe for a woman to use while pregnant, but an alcoholic woman may simply be unable to curb her habits in order to help her baby.
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a term used to describe the effects of a mother’s drinking on her unborn baby. Defects such as severely low birth weight, impaired muscle development and irritability are immediately evident at birth. As the child grows, FAS continues to cause problems with hyperactivity, learning and attention disorders, impaired concentration, and sometimes seizures.
Mitigate the Effects of Alcohol on Your Body at The Canyon
At The Canyon, alcohol rehabilitation is one of our primary concerns. Dedicated to the alcoholic whose alcohol abuse is compounded by mental and emotional problems, our staff is professionally trained to help anyone who suffers from addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder.
From assistance with an alcohol intervention to help with relapse prevention, we provides the tools that you or your loved one will need to maintain abstinence when they return home. Our staff is educated and prepared to help those with Dual Diagnoses to thrive without drugs and alcohol. A combination of psychological and drug addiction issues can make learning how to cope with the pressures of a job, bills, family and friends overwhelming. We provide you with the structure you need and assistance as you navigate the waters of responsibility without getting in over your head.