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What Alcohol Does to Your Body

Aug 20, 2023

As a high-profile person, your interest in changing your drinking habits is likely connected to your desire to protect your career and reputation. You may not have spent as much time considering how every drink directly impacts your brain and body. In this blog post, we’ll focus on excessive alcohol use’s relationship with you on a physical level and explain when it’s time to get help to achieve the sobriety you need.

Excessive alcohol use poses numerous threats to the body and brain. It can impair liver function, impact brain cells, compromise kidneys, and cause trouble for the lungs. Left unchecked, chronic conditions can develop from regular heavy drinking, including liver disease, cirrhosis, heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms, hypertension and stroke, oral and upper digestive tract cancers, breast cancer, and Alcohol Use Disorder. High-profile people who need help addressing their excessive alcohol consumption can find resources at Headwaters. Headwaters provides personalized and private programs for executives and other high-profile individuals in a confidential setting.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-270-1753.

What Happens When You Drink Alcohol?

Every time you take a drink, you don’t digest the alcohol in it. The alcohol begins a tour of your brain and body. Every region, in fact, is affected by it. The severity of the effect will depend on a variety of factors, including your age, gender, weight, and the type of alcohol you consume. If you are underweight, you have less tissue to absorb alcohol and will experience the adverse effects of drinking more rapidly. As you get older, your body changes with an increase in body fat and a decrease in body water. These changes can impact your body’s response to alcohol if you continue to drink as much as before these changes occurred.

Alcohol also affects females faster than males. Women tend to be smaller and lighter than men, with less tissue to absorb alcohol. The female body has more fat and less water than the male body. If a man and a woman are the same size and drink the same quantity, the woman’s blood alcohol content will be higher, she will become inebriated faster, and she will feel the effects for a longer period of time.

How Alcohol Affects Your Body

Alcohol’s effects on the body begin in the stomach, where 20% of alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream. The remaining amount will be absorbed in your small intestine. Once in your bloodstream, the alcohol gets distributed to your brain first, then to your kidneys, lungs, and liver. No region of the body is spared from some form of impact. The effects can be intensified by how little food you’ve eaten before drinking and any medications you’re taking.

Bloodstream: When alcohol enters your system, it dilates your blood vessels. As a result of the increased blood flow to the skin’s surface, you may blush, feel a temporary sense of warmth through heat loss, notice a quick reduction in body temperature, and experience a drop in your blood pressure.

Stomach: You may discover that even a tiny bit of alcohol increases your hunger. This is due to the increased flow of stomach fluids. On the other hand, excessive alcohol use dulls your appetite and might lead to malnutrition. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause stomach ulcers when gastric juices combine with the high alcohol level and irritate the stomach lining.

Brain: Alcohol dulls the regions of your brain that regulate how your body functions. This has an impact on your behaviors as well as your capacity to make judgments and maintain control. Alcohol affects your emotions and might make you feel depressed or violent. Your behavior and physiological functions become altered as the concentration of alcohol in your bloodstream rises. You may feel happy and less inhibited at first, but after a few drinks, you will most likely slur your words, have impaired vision, and lose coordination. Because your body takes time to absorb alcohol, there is no rapid method to sober up or reverse the effects on the brain.

Kidneys: Alcohol may be a liquid, but that doesn’t mean it helps with hydration. As it’s a diuretic, it creates an increase in urine. When you urinate more frequently, you could become dehydrated. If dehydrated by alcohol use, your kidneys may be limited in their ability to filter waste products, toxins, and excess minerals from the blood. An outcome can be an increased risk of kidney stones and urinary tract infections.

Lungs: Excessive alcohol use can compromise pulmonary function for a short period of time. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, which can impact the brain’s respiratory areas, causing slower and shallower breathing. In addition, alcohol can impair coordination, muscular control, and gag reflexes, raising the risk of breathing stomach contents into the lungs.

Liver: The liver plays a vital role in processing and metabolizing alcohol. Excessive alcohol use can have serious consequences for the liver by disrupting the organ’s capacity to metabolize alcohol effectively. You may suffer from fat accumulation in the liver, commonly known as fatty liver. Fatty liver commonly develops in heavy drinkers and can be accompanied by pain on the right side of the abdomen. Inflammation of the liver is another potential outcome. Finally, alcohol-related cirrhosis is possible.

Chronic Conditions Related to Excessive Alcohol Use

Outcomes related to alcohol consumption make it the third-leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. Outside of the mortality statistics of an estimated 95,000 deaths per year, excessive alcohol can contribute to various chronic conditions. According to the Mayo Clinic Health System, one recent five-year period showed the leading causes of death due to alcohol-related chronic conditions included liver disease, cirrhosis and cancer, heart disease, abnormal heart rhythms, hypertension and stroke, oral and upper digestive tract cancers, breast cancer, and Alcohol Use Disorder.

When to Seek Help for Alcohol Use

Your own health and well-being should be the first reason to seek treatment for an Alcohol Use Disorder. Treatment for alcohol use also becomes a top priority when drinking affects your professional performance through impaired decision-making abilities, flaws in your leadership responsibilities, inability to manage stress, and struggle to feel fulfilled by your work. In some cases, the need for treatment could be a way to mitigate risk for a company that anticipates legal consequences, financial troubles, and damage to reputation and relationships when an executive is unable to manage their drinking.

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Bedroom at HeadwatersHanley Foundation’s Headwaters is a non-profit addiction treatment program for executives, public figures, other affluent individuals, and their loved ones. Headwaters offers leading-edge, personalized clinical care for mental health and substance use disorders, and our professional and compassionate staff can help you achieve holistic wellness. To start your healing journey, call 561-270-1753 today.

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