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Health Conditions Caused by Heavy Drinking

Heart disease

Heavy drinking takes many forms, and it can lead to a variety of serious alcohol-related diseases. The CDC defines heavy drinking as having more than eight alcoholic drinks per week for women and more than 15 alcoholic drinks per week for men.1 Whether it looks like binge drinking on weekends, drinking secretly all day, or drinking as an underage or pregnant person, it’s a dangerous and damaging problem.

The long-term effects of excessive alcohol consumption can impact almost every system in the body, leading to severe health issues, including heart diseases, liver problems, cancers and more.

Heart Diseases

Heavy drinking is a significant risk factor for developing various heart diseases.2 Alcohol can negatively affect the heart in multiple ways, leading to conditions that can be life-threatening if left untreated. Chronic heavy drinking can cause high blood pressure, heart failure, and even stroke. Here are some specific heart diseases that are more likely to occur in heavy drinkers:

Types of heart disease that can be triggered by heavy drinking include:

  • Cardiomyopathy: A condition where the heart muscle weakens and struggles to pump blood effectively.
  • Arrhythmias: Irregular heartbeats that can lead to complications such as atrial fibrillation.
  • Hypertension: Chronic high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • Ischemic Heart Disease: Reduced blood flow to the heart, often resulting in chest pain or heart attacks.

Alcohol’s impact on the cardiovascular system is profound, with heavy drinking causing the heart to work harder and less efficiently. Over time, this can lead to chronic conditions that significantly reduce the quality of life and increase the risk of mortality.

Liver Diseases

Heavy drinking is one of the leading causes of liver diseases, which can have severe and often irreversible effects on health.3 The liver is responsible for filtering toxins from the blood, and excessive alcohol intake can damage liver cells, leading to inflammation and scarring.

Liver diseases that can be caused by heavy alcohol use include:

  • Fatty Liver Disease: Accumulation of fat in the liver cells, which can progress to more severe liver damage if heavy drinking continues.
  • Alcoholic Hepatitis: Inflammation of the liver caused by excessive alcohol consumption, which can lead to liver failure in severe cases.
  • Cirrhosis: Permanent scarring of the liver tissue, which impairs the liver’s ability to function and can lead to liver cancer.

These liver conditions can progress silently, often showing symptoms only when significant damage has already occurred. Regular medical check-ups and reducing alcohol intake are essential for preventing liver diseases and maintaining overall liver health.

Cancers

Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer.4 Alcohol can damage the cells in the body, leading to mutations and the development of cancerous cells. The risk is particularly high in the digestive system, but it can also affect other areas of the body.

There are several types of cancer that have been linked to alcohol abuse, such as:

  • Liver Cancer: Chronic alcohol consumption is a leading cause of liver cancer due to the development of cirrhosis.
  • Breast Cancer: Even moderate alcohol consumption can increase the risk of breast cancer in women.
  • Esophageal Cancer: Heavy drinking can damage the lining of the esophagus, leading to cancer.
  • Throat Cancer: The risk of cancers of the throat and voice box increases with alcohol consumption.
  • Mouth Cancer: Alcohol can damage the cells in the mouth, increasing the risk of oral cancer.
  • Colorectal Cancer: Heavy drinking is associated with a higher risk of cancers in the colon and rectum.

The link between alcohol and cancer is well-documented, and reducing alcohol intake is a crucial step in lowering the risk of these potentially deadly diseases.

Seizures

Seizures are caused by uncontrolled, sudden disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain. They can affect everything from a person’s movements and consciousness to their feelings and behaviors. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of developing seizure disorders or trigger seizures in individuals with preexisting conditions.5

Seizure conditions linked to heavy alcohol use include:

  • Alcohol-Induced Seizures: Directly caused by high levels of alcohol in the bloodstream, particularly during binge drinking episodes.
  • Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures: These seizures can occur when a heavy drinker suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol intake.
  • Epilepsy: Heavy drinking can worsen the frequency and severity of seizures in people with epilepsy.

Alcohol has a depressant effect on the central nervous system, which can lead to seizures when consumed in large quantities. It is crucial for individuals who are heavy drinkers to seek medical advice when attempting to reduce or quit drinking to manage the risk of withdrawal seizures safely.

Stomach lining

Digestive System Diseases

Heavy drinking can cause significant damage to the digestive system, leading to various diseases and conditions.6 Alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach and intestines, disrupting the digestive process and causing inflammation.

GI problems that can be caused or worsened by heavy drinking include:

  • Gastritis: Inflammation of the stomach lining, which can cause stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas, which can lead to severe abdominal pain and digestive issues.
  • Ulcers: Open sores that develop on the inner lining of the stomach or small intestine, often causing pain and bleeding.
  • Malabsorption: Impaired absorption of nutrients from food, leading to deficiencies and weight loss.

These digestive system diseases can have a serious impact on overall health and quality of life. Reducing alcohol intake and seeking medical advice are key to preventing and managing them.

How to Get Help for Alcohol Addiction

Getting help for alcohol addiction is vital to improving and protecting your health from the damage caused by drinking. Professional treatment can provide the support and resources needed to achieve and maintain sobriety. 

At Lumina Recovery, we offer comprehensive alcohol addiction treatment programs designed to address the physical, emotional, and mental health aspects of alcohol use disorder. Our expert team helps individuals regain control of their lives through personalized treatment plans that include medical detox, therapy, and ongoing support. 

Contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs and take the first step toward a healthier future.

Sources: 

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/about-alcohol-use/?CDC_AAref_Val=https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
  2. https://www.acc.org/About-ACC/Press-Releases/2024/03/28/11/58/alcohol-raises-heart-disease-risk-particularly-among-women
  3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/alcoholinduced-liver-disease
  4. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/alcohol/alcohol-fact-sheet
  5. https://www.epilepsy.com/what-is-epilepsy/seizure-triggers/alcohol
  6. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/addiction-heavy-drinking

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