The Health Risks of Heavily Drinking Alcohol

What is alcoholism, and how does it impact your health? Alcohol use disorder involves the insatiable, compulsive need to consume alcoholic beverages. Misusing alcohol has several physical and psychological consequences. Seek professional support right away if you notice yourself or your loved ones showing alcoholism signs.

Table Of Contents

Alcoholism: A Definition

Alcoholism stands as the most severe and common form of addiction. Statistics show that 6.8% of Americans over 12 have alcoholism — 414,000 of which are between 12 to 17. Also, 25.8% of Americans 18 and above engage in heavy drinking regularly.

The problem with alcoholism is that many patients don’t know they have it. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot measure alcoholism. Medical professionals do not assess people with alcohol use disorder based solely on the number of drinks they consume daily. 

For instance, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that heavy drinking involves 14 or more drinks per week. However, there are patients diagnosed with alcoholism who consume fewer drinks.

Instead of counting drinks, it’s better to assess drinking habits. Generally, people who have a compulsive, insatiable need to drink large amounts of alcohol daily should get checked for alcoholism. 

Health Risks of Alcoholism

There are several mental and physical health risks of alcohol use disorder, which include:

  • Depression and Anxiety: People with alcohol use disorder face higher risks of developing mental health illnesses.
  • Cancer: Research shows that 740,000+ recorded cancer cases in 2020 were linked to alcohol misuse.
  • Higher Blood Pressure Levels: Consuming just three to four drinks in one sitting already raises your blood pressure levels.
  • Liver Failure: Years of consistent alcohol misuse can lead to severe, irreversible damage to the liver.
  • Stroke: Excessive alcohol consumption puts you at risk of atrial fibrillation, which causes the formation of blood clots and increases the risk of stroke.

What Causes Alcoholism?

What causes alcoholism, and can one avoid them? The development of alcohol use disorder generally depends on a patient’s drinking habits (i.e., frequency, volume). However, several other variables can cause alcoholism as well, such as:

  • Early exposure to alcohol misuse — either from peers or relatives.
  • The overreliance on alcohol to alleviate daily stress.
  • Using alcohol to compensate for the lack of social interaction.
  • Drinking to the point of intoxication every day — even when alone.
  • Coping with challenging situations by drinking.

Alcoholism: Signs To Look Out For

Alcoholism typically goes untreated if the patient doesn’t realize their problem. In many cases, people with alcohol use disorder assume that they have regular drinking habits, so the thought of alcoholism treatment never even occurs to them. However, delaying therapy and medication further aggravates the health risks of alcohol.

Patients can change this mindset by understanding what causes alcoholism. Learning early alcoholism signs and acknowledging the disorder before it worsens significantly speeds up the recovery process.

  • Compulsive Need to Drink: The most obvious sign of alcoholism is the compulsive need to drink constantly.
  • Always Prioritizing Alcohol: People who misuse alcohol might find themselves prioritizing alcohol over their friends and family. 
  • Disregard of Alcohol Tolerance: People with alcoholism have a higher tolerance, so they often down multiple drinks mindlessly.
  • Aggressive Behavior After Drinking: People with alcohol use disorder often undergo a significant character shift when intoxicated.
  • Exhausting Financial Resources for Alcohol: Some patients willingly get into debt to purchase alcoholic beverages.
  • Insatiable Desire to Keep Drinking: People with alcoholism do not stop drinking even after getting intoxicated.
  • Inability to Decline Drinking: People with alcohol use disorder might find themselves grabbing every opportunity to drink.

The Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcoholism recovery goes beyond rehab. Medical professionals recommend varying treatment options based on the severity and frequency of a patient’s alcohol use disorder. For best results, patients should combine self-medication with professional treatments.

Firstly, detoxification. This treatment involves the expulsion of all traces of alcohol in the body by abstaining from liquor as long as possible. Note that patients might experience withdrawal symptoms.

Secondly, rehabilitation. Rehab treatment serves as a more formal, professional approach to alcoholism treatment. Patients will undergo several programs daily.

Lastly, maintenance. This treatment process involves self-medication and primarily relies on discipline. Recovering patients should strive for long-term sobriety.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is alcoholism, and how do you detect the early symptoms? To help you learn more about alcoholism, we compiled some of the most common questions patients and non-patients ask about alcohol use disorder.

What are the risks of being an alcoholic?

Some mental and physical health risks of alcohol misuse include high blood pressure levels, pancreatitis, liver disease, stroke, panic attacks, depression, and heart muscle damage.

What is considered a drinking problem?

Alcoholism develops when binge drinking habits turn into compulsive needs. The NIAAA defines heavy drinking for women and men as consuming 7 and 14 drinks per week, respectively.

Does drinking every day make you an alcoholic?

Drinking every day does not automatically translate to alcoholism. However, consuming more than two drinks daily increases the risk of alcohol-related complications, including alcohol use disorder.

Overall, recovering from alcohol use disorder involves a lifelong process. Patients should practice everything they learned from their alcoholism treatment programs to achieve long-term sobriety. Otherwise, they might relapse. People undergoing recovery will achieve better results if they have a solid support system throughout the process.

Do you want to learn more about alcoholism recovery? Radical Rehab can shed some light on the topic. Check out our resources explaining the potential treatment avenues for people with alcohol use disorders.

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