Understanding the Risks of Alcohol Abuse

Understanding the Risks of Alcohol Abuse

According to a 2017 study published by the JAMA Psychiatry, approximately one out of eight Americans struggle with an alcohol use disorder. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that more than 80,000 people die from alcohol-related deaths each year in the United States. Along with the opioid epidemic plaguing the nation, those results are staggering.

Alcohol abuse has a significant effect on the entire body. This includes the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system. Despite these profound harmful effects, Americans continue to abuse alcohol on a regular basis. Understanding the risks of alcohol abuse could help you make healthier choices when it comes to alcohol consumption.


Injuries are the leading cause of death for people under the age of 45 and the fourth leading cause of death overall, according to verywellmind.com. Developing unhealthy drinking habits and alcohol abuse increases your risk of injury which can have an overwhelming effect on your life. When an individual is under the influence of alcohol, their coordination and responsiveness are impaired. Every year, there are thousands of people face hospitalization and even death from alcohol-related injuries. These fatal and non-fatal injuries include traffic accidents, fires or burns, hypothermia, and suicide.

Birth Defects

Women who consume alcohol during pregnancy increase the likeliness of birth defects and other serious health problems in the baby. When the mother drinks alcohol, it is quickly passed through the placenta to the developing baby. Alcohol use during pregnancy increases the baby’s chances of the following issues:

  • Birth defects such as heart, hearing, or vision problems. Health conditions that are present at birth and change the shape or function on parts of the body are classified as birth defects. Birth defects cause issues in overall health and development.
  • Premature birth. When a baby is born before reaching full-term, they are born prematurely. Alcohol abuse during pregnancy can cause the baby to be born early, resulting in serious health issues during birth and later in life.
  • Low birthweight. If a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces, they have a low birth weight, which increases the risk of health complications.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth. Even drinking a small amount of alcohol can increase the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Miscarriage is the death of the unborn child before 20 weeks of pregnancy while stillbirth is when the baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks.

Health Issues

Alcohol misuse has a profound effect on total body health. People who drink alcohol excessively or over a prolonged period of time increases their chances of developing several long-term health issues. Alcohol takes a serious toll on the body, including:

  • The brain. Alcohol misuse interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, which affects the way it works. This causes serious behavioral changes, including how an individual acts and feels.
  • The heart. Drinking excessively can lead to issues such as heart disease. This also includes cardiomyopathy, irregular heartbeat, stroke, and high blood pressure.
  • The liver. Heavy drinking causes significant problems with the liver. This includes steatosis or fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
  • The pancreas. Alcohol use causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances. This can eventually result in pancreatitis, which is a dangerous inflammation of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
  • Cancer. Research from the National Cancer Institute reports patterns between excessive alcohol consumption and the development of several cancers including head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer
  • The immune system. Drinking too much can weaken your immune system and make your body a target for several diseases. Chronic alcohol drinkers are more likely to contract diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Choosing to receive treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction is not a simple task. However, it is the first important step towards recovery and health. Alcohol abuse leaves damaging effects on the body, both physically and psychologically. Addiction is a disease that can affect anyone from any walks of life- regardless of age, race, gender, or profession. Fortunately, recovery from alcohol abuse and addiction IS possible. Individuals battling these disorders can get the help they need to regain control of their lives and live free from alcohol abuse. Contact us for more information about regaining control of your life.

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