Physiological Effects of Alcohol Abuse: Your Health Is the Real Cost

Alcohol is a highly addictive mind-altering substance, although it is widely accepted around most of the world. Its abuse is the number one drug problem in the US; Over 50% of adult population in the US, are regular drinkers. There are over 25,000 alcohol induced deaths per year, excluding accidents and homicides. Chronic or overuse of alcohol has many negative effects on the human physical body and the mind. Long term alcohol abuse may drive some into poverty, but the real cost is one's health.

Alcohol Related Health Issues

Heavy alcohol use increases the risks for many diseases, such as liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and cancer. It suppresses the immune system, making one more susceptible to high respiratory infections; furthermore, it interferes with the absorption of calcium, which may lead to osteoporosis. Alcohol influences one's brain chemistry, altering mood, arousal and behavior. Long term use may cause memory loss, confusion, balance problems and sleep disturbances.

Women and Alcohol

Because women in general weigh less than men, they are more severely affected by alcohol. When alcohol passes through the digestive tract it is dissolved in the stored water in the body; therefore, alcohol is less diluted in women's bodies, increasing health risks and damage on the organs. Women who drink are more susceptible to coronary heart disease and breast cancer. They may experience fertility issues, irregular periods, and during pregnancy, alcohol may cause miscarriages, along with significant abnormalities in the developing baby.

Men and Alcohol

Men are more likely to drink excessively than women, and when inoxicated, are more likely to take part in unprotected, risky sexual behavior. Alcohol abuse interferees with healthy testicular function and male hormone production, which causes impotence, loss of sex drive, wasting of testicles, infertility and low testosterone. Due to its diuretic properties, alcohol causes dehydration and loss of many vital minerals and salts. Additionally, it blocks the absorption of vitamins, which may cause malnutrition as well as cancer of the large bowel and rectum.

Alcoholism in the US

Alcoholism is a more serious problem that most suspect. There are over 12 million alcoholics in the US. Because these serious health concerns do not manifest immediately, regular drinking and even overuse is accepted by many. It is shocking to see how some lives are ruined because of one's inability to stop drinking. It is a strong physical and emotional addiction, that for many, is hard to break. There are support groups such as Alcohol Anonymous, a highly effective program, along with behavioral therapies and medicines.

If you or your loved one is affected by alcoholism and need assistance, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration can provide you with assistance, printed material and treatment referral information. You may also go to their website and access the Substance Abuse Treatment Services Locator to find a facility near you. You may also call the SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) 1-800-487-4889 (TDD).