When you drink alcohol, it’s absorbed into your bloodstream—which mean it affects every part of your body. So if you drink more than two standard servings of alcohol a day, you’re going to see both short-term and long-term effects on both your behavior and your health. Is it worth the risks?
For example, when you’re out with friends and have more than a couple of drinks, your central nervous system will be slowed down when the alcohol affects the balance of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that send messages between nerves. You’ll experience:
- Slower reaction times
- Reduced inhibition and increased impulsivity
- Difficulty thinking and concentrating
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty walking and balancing
- Mood swings and extreme emotions
- Slowed heart rate and breathing
You may even black out, or run the risk of a serious accident or injury. All of these factors leave you at risk when you’re drinking, even when you are in a private setting. If you drive after drinking—which of course you know you’re not supposed to do—you’ll be more likely to speed, hit another vehicle, or not wear a seatbelt. And alcohol use has been linked to fire injuries, dangerous falls, drowning and industrial accidents.
In addition to the obvious effects caused by alcohol use, it also causes changes inside your body. These may include:
- Inflammation of your stomach lining
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Lowered immune response
- Respiratory infections
Of course, these hidden effects will worsen if you continue to drink in excess over a long period of time. Short-term effects from drinking usually reverse themselves once the alcohol has been processed by and eliminated from your body. But frequent and ongoing alcohol use can not only worsen these effects worse but make them permanent.
One of the areas where long-term effects are most damaging is the brain. The brain controls your memory, reaction time, concentration, balance and coordination, speech and mood. Cognitive impairment is one of the most common long-term effects of excessive drinking.
Over time, you’ll process information more slowly and experience difficulty in learning new things and in problem-solving.
Then there’s your heart. About 25% of people who drink heavily will develop early onset cardiovascular disease, such as cardiomyopathy, where the heart becomes bigger and loses some of its ability to contract, coronary heart disease, increased blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia and a higher risk of stroke.
A history of heavy drinking also increases the risk of mouth, throat, esophageal, bowel, breast, and liver cancer, not to mention musculoskeletal damage.
And, of course, consuming too much alcohol over time has a toxic effect on all parts of the digestive system. While most people associate heavy drinking with liver damage, you can also harm your stomach, pancreas and small intestine.
If you’re worried about your own alcohol consumption, or a friend or family member’s, please call Horizon Health Services at (716) 831-1800. We are here to answer questions and offer help.