Long-Term Effects of Alcoholism
Long-term alcoholism is responsible for adverse health complications, a higher-than-normal chance of sexual assault, and suicide. Statistics concerning alcohol abuse are difficult to believe, but unfortunately, ring true in the United States today. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), 140,557 Americans die from the effects of alcohol in an average year. Furthermore, 1 in 10 Americans over age 12 have an alcohol use disorder.
The effects of alcohol abuse are often chronic rather than acute health problems. Alcoholic liver disease is the primary health concern, which causes 19.1% of all alcohol-related deaths. Alcohol affects cardiovascular health dramatically, involving blood pressure and an elevation of chance of stroke. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that women using alcohol moderately increase their risk for breast cancer.
Alcoholism Facts and Stats
According to NCDAS, in 2020, men contributed to over half of the population with an alcohol use disorder, with 14.8 million people overall diagnosed. Even more alarming is that girls aged 12 to 17 are 61.5% more likely to have an alcohol use disorder than boys. Emerging trends in alcohol abuse involve high-intensity drinking (HID), which defines consumption of alcohol at levels 2 or more times the gender-specific binge drinking thresholds.
High-intensity drinking statistics include:
- High-intensity drinking peaks at age 21
- 80 to 90% of young adults celebrate their 21st birthday with alcohol
- High-intensity drinking is associated with aggression and injury
- Each year, 97,000 sexual assaults by American college students involve alcohol
Deaths from long-term alcoholism include the following statistics:
- 53.7% of alcohol-related deaths are due to chronic misuse
- Alcohol poisoning is another leading killer, causing 32% of acute alcohol-related deaths
- Nearly 100,000 annual deaths are attributable to alcohol abuse, with more than half due to long-term use
- 140,557 Americans die from the effects of alcohol in an average year
Long-Term Effects of Alcoholism on the Body
Long-term alcoholism is especially dangerous to those with certain heart conditions, high blood pressure, and stroke. Alcoholic liver disease is another significant physical illness linked to long-term alcohol use. The pancreas and kidneys are also adversely affected by heavy alcohol consumption. In addition, gastrointestinal problems are common in those who drink alcohol long-term.
Alcoholism can weaken the immune system, which makes the body prone to more disease. Pneumonia and tuberculosis are common diseases in long-term alcoholics. A weak immune system also slows the body’s ability to heal and ward off other infections. Long-term alcoholism raises the chance of developing certain cancers.
Long-Term Effects of Alcoholism on the Brain
Long-term alcoholism has a detrimental effect on the brain, although there are adverse effects even with short-term use, including memory loss and blackouts. Wernicke’s encephalopathy, a severe brain condition, can develop over time from thiamine and Vitamin B1 deficiencies due to alcohol misuse. The condition causes extreme mental confusion, lack of muscle coordination, and paralysis of nerves.
Another unfortunate circumstance is that 80 to 90% of alcoholics with Wernicke’s also develop Korsakoff’s psychosis. Korsakoff’s psychosis leads to cognitive decline, including forgetfulness and an inability to develop and hold new memories. Long-term alcoholism affects the neurotransmitters in the brain, causing a failure to make sound judgments, control drinking alcohol, or make good decisions.
Unfortunately, although physical conditions develop, causing pain or discomfort, the user cannot stop drinking. The brain’s chemistry is also dependent upon the continual ingestion of alcohol.
Risk Factors for Alcoholism: Genetics
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism relays essential risk factors for the population to develop an alcohol use disorder. Genetics or family history of long-term alcoholism is a significant risk factor. Those choosing to drink alcohol excessively or binge drink, consuming alcohol before age 15, have existing mental health conditions, high stress, and a history of childhood abuse or trauma are other leading risk factors.
Genetics or family history generates a 50 to 60% vulnerability of an alcohol use disorder to develop. An individual’s genetic makeup can affect biological processes, mental states, and traits, which include physiological responses to alcohol and stress, neurobiology associated with addiction, and behavioral tendencies based on impulsivity.
Family history involves 12.1% of children under 17 who live with at least one parent with an AUD. Single-parent households present with 9.3% of fathers being alcoholic and 6.3% of mothers.
Examples of genetic factors include the following:
- Genetic response to alcohol consumption or innate alcohol tolerance: This appears as an ability to hold their liquor, and results in a likelihood to drink heavily and develop an alcohol use disorder
- Inherited alcohol metabolism: Certain populations carry a genetic variation influencing liver enzymes responsible for ethanol metabolism. It builds up acetaldehyde. These enzymes are responsible for physical side effects, limiting the amounts of alcohol they can tolerate and an increased risk of particular cancer.
- A genetic vulnerability to the elements of addiction: Addiction-related neurotransmitter systems
Risk Factors for Alcoholism: Environment
Environmental factors, including external stressors, are a significant risk factor in developing an alcohol use disorder. Accumulation of substantial stressors throughout life, trauma, and abuse impact drinking patterns, most likely to be heavy involvement with alcohol.
Mental health conditions are often a result of genetic and environmental factors that raise stress levels, anxiety, and depression. Unfortunately, long-term alcoholism can increase the severity of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.
The following statistics involve mental health conditions and alcohol use disorders (dual diagnosis disorders):
- Those under treatment for anxiety disorders include 20 to 40% also experiencing an alcohol use disorder.
- Those under treatment or had treatment for a depressive disorder include 40% with an alcohol use disorder.
- 36 to 91% of people with an alcohol use disorder have also had treatment for a sleep disorder.
- 40 to 50% of men and women with an alcohol use disorder have had another substance use disorder in their lifetime.
Find Treatment Options for Long-Term Alcoholism in Tennessee
Fortunately, successful treatment options for long-term alcoholism exist, and Freeman Recovery Center in Tennessee offers several options. Medical detox programs include medication-assisted treatment, and cognitive-behavioral therapy assists in forming new behavioral patterns and is an evidence-based therapy. Inpatient and outpatient programs are available, and the admissions department is familiar with processing insurance.
Contact us to receive additional information and to begin the journey towards sobriety.