Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can create chaos in your life, and it can also lead to a number of alcohol-related diseases.
Research shows that 95,000 deaths occur each year in the United States as a result of excessive alcohol abuse, shortening the lives of those who die as a result by almost 30 years on average.
Beyond this, the economic costs of alcohol abuse are estimated at around $250 billion annually.
If you are drinking alcohol abusively, then, you not only run the risk of problems at home, work, and school, but you could also develop alcohol use disorder or any of the following alcohol-related diseases:
- Alcoholic Liver Disease
- Alcohol Heart Disease
- Alcoholic Lung Disease
1) Alcoholic Liver Disease
Many health issues related to alcohol abuse involved drinking large quantities of alcohol in a single sitting. Examples include:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Blacking out
- Impaired judgment leading to accidents
With alcohol-related liver disease, by contrast, you don’t need to binge drink. According to the National Library of Medicine, you can develop the alcoholic liver disease as a result of chronic drinking, even if consumption is moderate.
Like with addiction more widely, genetics is also largely responsible for whether or not you’ll develop liver disease. While some heavy drinkers may never encounter liver problems at all, increased consumption of alcohol can increase your susceptibility to liver disease.
If you mix alcohol with medications like DayQuil, this can further increase the risk of liver problems developing.
Although women are more prone to developing liver disease as a result of drinking than men, the issue is prevalent in both men and women.
The first red flags to look for if you or a loved one is drinking heavily and concerned about liver problems include
- Stomach pain
- Loss of appetite
- Lowered energy levels
- Visible blood vessels on the skin
In the event of severe liver disease, you can expect to develop the following symptoms:
- Yellow skin
- Red palms
- Easily bruised skin
- Buildup of fluid in legs
- Problems with thinking
- Impotence in males
Liver disease can come on gradually or suddenly, depending on the overall health of your liver. The disease typically unfolds as follows:
- Fatty liver disease
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Cirrhosis of the liver
Fatty liver disease
Fatty liver disease, as the name makes clear, is characterized by an accumulation of fat on the liver. This can occur after brief periods of intense drinking, such as an entire weekend of alcohol abuse.
Unfortunately, the lack of noticeable symptoms makes it hard to diagnose fatty liver disease.
On the plus side, the damage can be arrested and reversed if you abstain from alcohol. The liver is a remarkably forgiving and tolerant organ, but only up to a certain point.
If you continue drinking alcohol heavily and long-term, you may develop alcoholic hepatitis. This stage of liver disease varies in severity from person to person. While some people present no symptoms at all, liver failure occurs in others.
Again, alcoholic hepatitis can be reversed following a long spell of abstinence. In severe cases, your doctor may advise you to never drink alcohol again. A good diet and plenty of exercises can help you start repairing some of the damage.
Cirrhosis of the liver
Liver cirrhosis is the end-stage of liver disease triggered by alcohol abuse. By the time cirrhosis sets in, the liver is already scarred. This scarring is neither treatable nor reversible.
If you develop liver cirrhosis and you continue drinking, you risk permanent liver failure.
Of all the diseases alcohol abuse can precipitate, cancer is perhaps the most devastating.
Data from the American Cancer Society shows that 6% of all cancers and 4% of all cancer deaths are related to alcohol abuse.
With alcoholic beverages containing known carcinogens, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program, you increase your risk of developing some cancers even by drinking moderately.
Research shows patterns between the consumption of alcohol and the following cancers:
- Colorectal cancer
- Head and neck cancer
- Liver cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer
Colorectal cancer involves either the rectum or the colon.
Your colon is responsible for absorbing water and salt after it passes through your small intestine. Any residual waste matter passes into the rectum and on into the digestive system.
Alcohol abuse disrupts the smooth functioning of these processes, leading to an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Head and neck cancer
Even moderate drinkers are nearly twice as likely to develop oral cavity cancers, as well as more likely to develop larynx cancers affecting the voice box.
There are two types of liver cancer:
- Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma
- Hepatocellular carcinoma
The first type of liver cancer occurs more frequently in males, mainly affecting those aged 50 to 70.
Any degree of alcohol intake increases your risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Women who drink three or more alcoholic beverages weekly have a 15% greater chance of developing breast cancer.
3) Alcohol Heart Disease
Alcohol is responsible for several risk factors related to heart disease.
Heavy drinkers are likely to have high blood pressure, an unhealthy diet, and insufficient levels of exercise. All of these are contributory factors for heart disease.
In addition to this, alcohol can also directly damage the heart, causing minor damage to the muscle cells as it works its way through your heart.
Alcoholic heart disease or alcoholic cardiomyopathy is the result of the heart becoming large and thin, leading to an increased risk of heart failure. Symptoms do not typically manifest until the heart starts failing. These symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Decreased alertness
- Lowered urine output
- Swelling of feet and ankles
In the United States, around one-third of all cases of acute pancreatitis are caused by alcohol. The same data shows that between 60% and 90% of those who develop pancreatitis have a history of alcohol abuse, making it an alcohol-related disease.
There are two different types of pancreatitis
- Acute pancreatitis
- Chronic pancreatitis
While some people suffer from pancreatitis after drinking just a few drinks daily over a long period, others only develop this disease after a lengthy period of heavy alcohol consumption.
If you abstain from alcohol, you can minimize the chance of any future episodes of acute pancreatitis. You can also help to more easily control the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis.
5) Alcoholic Lung Disease
Abusing alcohol chronically and long-term can disrupt crucial cellular functions in your lungs.
People diagnosed with alcohol use disorder run a higher risk of developing ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) than those who do not have AUD. Mortality rates as a result of ARDS are also higher among those with alcohol use disorder than among the general population.
Beyond this, the cellular impairments in the lungs caused by alcohol abuse also increase your risk of serious complications if you have a pre-existing lung disease.
Overcoming Alcoholism at The District Recovery
Alcoholism is a chronic and relapsing disease, and it can bring about a variety of adverse health outcomes including a number of alcohol-related diseases. Fortunately, alcoholism is also treatable.
Here at The District Recovery Community, our evidence-based outpatient programs for alcohol use disorder combine MAT (medication-assisted treatment) with psychotherapy and counseling to help you address the root cause of your addiction.
If you require more intensive treatment, we offer both IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs). For anyone grappling with a co-occurring mental health condition like depression, anxiety disorder, or PTSD, our dual diagnosis program offers integrated treatment for the best chance of sustained recovery and sound mental health.
Often, the hardest step to take with recovery is the first crucial step: reaching out for help. If you’re ready to leave alcoholism behind and reclaim your life, we’re here to help you. Pick up the phone right now, fight back against alcohol addiction and alcohol-related diseases and contact the friendly The District Recovery admissions team and learn more about treatment options and sober living homes.