Since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has sponsored Alcohol Awareness Month in April. The purpose it to help increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma, and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. This is a tough subject for some people. I’ve seen first-hand what alcohol can do to a person, and I’ve known people who have become dependent on alcohol. It’s a very scary thing.
I am by no means saying you need to quit drinking TODAY. I enjoy going out for drinks with my friends, or having a glass of wine with dinner just as much as anyone. Everything is ok in moderation. When you start drinking alcohol excessively, or binge drinking more than 2 nights per week, that’s when things can start to get out of control.
Excessive alcohol consumption can have serious long-term effects on the body:
- Brain: alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways. This can affect mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
- Heart: drinking a lot over a long period of time can cause cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of the heart muscle), arrhythmias (irregular heart beat), high blood pressure, and stroke
- Liver: heavy drinking can lead to a variety of liver problems including steatosis (fatty liver), alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis
- Pancreas: Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, which is a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the pancreas that prevents proper digestion
- Cancer: drinking too much can increase your risk of developing certain cancers including mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast cancer.
- Immune System: alcohol can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your ability to ward off infections for up to 24 hours.
While this may seem scary, keep in mind that these are all things that can happen if you drink excessively for many years. Drinking once or twice a week, or having one really bad night of drinking will not cause cirrhosis or stroke. Enjoy alcoholic drinks in moderation, and you should be ok.
Next week I’ll be publishing an article about the effects of alcohol on muscle building and fat loss, so look out for that!
If you think you have an alcohol problem, or you know someone that might, I encourage you to get help right away. The NCADD is a great resource if you don’t know where to start!