Alcohol Abuse: The 5 Most Serious Health Risks

Alcohol plays an integral part in most social occasions: a bottle of wine over dinner, a few cocktails on the weekend, or a nightcap at the local bar at the end of a long, hard week. Although we all enjoy drinking in moderation, these beverages soon add up, so how do we know when enough is enough and when to call it a night?

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), low-risk drinking is defined as follows: no more than seven drinks per week for women, and no more than fourteen drinks per week for men. The advice also dictates that only three or four alcoholic beverages should be consumed on any given day and that expectant mothers, those on medication, and people operating vehicles should abstain altogether.

The short-term effects of alcohol abuse are something we all experience following a heavy night out: drowsiness, slurred speech, sleep disruption, emotional changes, and vomiting, but what about the long-term risks of over-consumption? Here are the five most serious health risks of alcohol abuse.


High Blood Pressure

According to Web MD, the exact causes of high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) are unknown, but high alcohol consumption is thought to play a part. High blood pressure isn’t usually noticeable, as it rarely causes obvious symptoms, which is why hypertension is referred to as a silent health condition. The only way to know whether your blood pressure is within the normal range is to have it measured by your doctor.

Over time, if high blood pressure remains untreated, the condition can lead to heart attack or stroke. You can reduce your blood pressure with healthy diet and exercise, cutting out alcohol, and reducing your caffeine intake. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to keep your levels within the healthy range. If you’re worried about the cost of the cost of your medical bills, eDrugSearch Blood Pressure Medications can reduce the price of your prescriptions considerably.


Liver Disease

Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD) is dangerous, partly because the symptoms don’t tend to show until the liver is severely dangerous. When this happens, symptoms can include nausea, weight loss, jaundice, drowsiness, and vomiting blood.

There are three main stages of ARLD: the first is something called alcoholic fatty liver disease, which can happen after just a few days of heavy drinking. The good news is, this early stage can be reversed by only two weeks of abstinence. The second stage is “alcoholic hepatitis,” a potentially serious condition caused by an extended period of alcohol misuse. Many people only find out they have liver disease when the condition reaches this stage. The final stage of ARLD is cirrhosis, at which point the liver has become significantly damaged and the condition is irreversible.

If you’re at risk of developing liver disease, your doctor will advise you to stop drinking – usually for life. In extreme cases of ARLD, patients may be eligible for a liver transplant, but they will only be able to undergo surgery if they stop drinking entirely.


Brain Disorders

Perhaps you’ve heard the strapline, “booze kills brain cells,” but you’ve never taken it seriously. Sadly, there is truth in this statement, as long-term overconsumption of alcohol kills off brain cells, leading to mental or physical disorders and lower cognitive function.

Alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) can have serious implications, including changes in personality, mood, memory, and ability to learn. Symptoms vary, and they tend to build over time before they become noticeable.

The most severe form of ARBD is Wernicke’s encephalopathy: a deterioration of tissue in the brain. Symptoms include confusion, rapid eye movements, poor balance, disorientation, and numbness in the hands and feet. This condition is dangerous, and should be treated as a medical emergency, so if someone you love is acting strangely and you suspect they have an alcohol problem, call the emergency services without delay.



Pancreatitis is a dangerous inflammation of the pancreas: the long, flat gland that sits behind your stomach. The pancreas is responsible for producing vital enzymes that help and aid digestion and allow your body to process glucose. Left untreated, extreme cases of pancreatitis can cause nerve damage, leading to life-threatening complications. However, the sudden, severe pain that’s often experienced with this condition means most people seek treatment and get better. However, if alcohol caused the initial inflammation, then pancreatitis will return if the person continues to drink.

Two-thirds of chronic pancreatitis cases occur in those with a history of alcohol abuse, and the damage can be irreversible. This condition can also put you at risk of other illnesses, including diabetes and cancer. If you experience any of the symptoms of pancreatitis (such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, weight loss or back pain), see your doctor immediately.


Alcohol Dependence

Contrary to common belief, alcohol dependence is far more physical than emotional, although emotional difficulties often lead people to drink in the first place. Alcoholism occurs when the body no longer functions properly without alcohol. Over time, chronic drinkers become accustomed to higher and higher doses, leading to tolerance and addiction which makes it difficult (and frankly dangerous) to stop drinking.

Most people need help when they quit drinking, so if you think you’re dealing with alcohol dependence, don’t try to go it alone. Talk to your doctor about a treatment program, and consider going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Recovery from alcohol abuse can be a lifelong process, so you’ll need people onside for those times of need.


Are You Addicted to Alcohol?

If you think you might be dependent on alcohol, you need to seek treatment before the condition worsens. Although the affliction carries some stigma, alcoholism is a physical disorder that can occur due to genetic predisposition or mental health difficulties, so it’s not your fault if you’re finding it hard to stop. Talk to your doctor about a detoxification program, and whatever you do, don’t stop drinking suddenly, as this can have dangerous withdrawal effects.


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