Does alcohol cause cancer?
Recently, the American Cancer Society released a statement that the best amount of alcohol to consume regularly is none. Previously, they recommended that we limit our drinking to 1 or 2 drinks daily. Now, for the first time since 2012, they have updated their recommendations for drinking. The ACS now says we should not be drinking any alcohol.
Does this mean that people who drink alcohol are at higher risk for cancer?
Alcohol is a carcinogen. Drinking any alcohol can increase the risk of various cancers, including mouth and throat cancer. Alcohol use can also contribute to larynx, esophageal, colon, liver, and breast cancer.
If you drink less alcohol, your risk of these cancers is lower. If you are a heavy drinker or binge drinker, you have a higher risk of developing cancer. Alcohol, combined with other risk factors for cancer, including smoking, can significantly increase your cancer risk.
What does alcohol do to the brain? Does drinking kill brain cells?
There are a lot of myths surrounding alcohol and the death of brain cells. When I was growing up, the common misconception was that getting drunk would kill something like 10 million or 100 million brain cells.
When you divide the number of neurons in the human brain by those numbers, you might conclude that getting drunk regularly would leave you brainless after a few decades. Of course, this cannot be correct!
As it turns out, alcohol is not a brain cell killer. However, regular drinking can lead to damage to the dendrites of neurons. The dendrites are the ends of the brain cells that communicate with other brain cells.
Hence, while drinking does not destroy brain cells, brain function is affected by heavy drinking. Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to memory loss, mood swings, and, eventually, dementia.
what are some long-term effects of alcohol on mental illness?
Mental illness is made worse by regular drinking. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and antisocial personality disorder can be made worse by alcohol. While people with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may drink to self-medicate their condition, they may be making it worse. Alcohol use disorder, combined with another mental illness, is considered to be a co-occurring disorder.
How does an alcoholic brain look?
You may have heard stories of the brains of life-long alcoholics looking like swiss cheese, full of holes. Or, you may have heard stories of people with alcohol-caused wet brain, and shrunken brains on MRI and CT scans.
In most cases, if you stop drinking and start an excellent program of healthy eating and nutritional supplements, your central nervous system can fully recover normal functioning. However, permanent brain damage is possible with excess alcohol use.
Can alcoholism long-term effects lead to permanent brain damage?
For example, when you drink regularly, alcohol blocks the absorption of various nutrients in your intestines. Vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, is one of the essential nutrients that is blocked. A thiamine deficiency can lead to Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), associated with Wernicke encephalopathy (WE).
WKS can lead to permanent brain damage and even death. The main symptoms are ataxia or a lack of coordination, vision changes, and memory loss. To avoid this preventable brain-damaging condition, stop drinking and be sure to start a B1 supplement, among other essential supplements, including folic acid, antioxidants, and other vitamins. Minerals and amino acid supplementation can also help to restore brain chemistry to normal.
What else can too much drinking do to the brain?
Alcohol toxicity is known to affect the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and limbic system. Additionally, alcohol use can increase your risk of stroke. Severe and permanent brain damage can occur from alcohol use.
While the brain is affected by alcohol use, you can, in most cases, recover significantly from the mental cloudiness and brain fog caused by excess drinking. For example, in my podcast interview with Hoke Kimball, he describes a long and difficult bout with alcoholism, followed by many years of successful and fulfilling recovery.
Mr. Kimball is a successful author and a highly talented artist. There are many examples of people recovering from alcoholism to achieve great things in life after achieving sobriety.
What does alcohol do to the liver?
If you do not know much about your liver and what it does, you may not think about it much or take it too seriously. However, your liver is a vital organ, and when it is severely damaged, you will get very sick. Your liver acts as a filter for the body, and a healthy liver is essential to healthy living.
How do you know if your liver is being strained and damaged by your alcohol use? You can get a blood test to check your liver function.
There are a series of blood tests performed to check liver function. Two tests often looked at first are the enzymes, AST and ALT. These enzymes are on liver function panels or even a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP).
While other causes can elevate these enzymes if you see that the AST is higher than the ALT, and both are high, it is likely due to alcohol toxicity to the liver. Of course, you should review all blood tests with your doctor.
What happens if your liver is severely damaged?
If you have severe liver damage, your skin may turn yellow, known as jaundice. High levels of bilirubin cause jaundice. It can also affect the eyes, causing them to appear yellow. Icterus is another name that you may hear used for the yellowing of the skin and eyes caused by liver damage.
What liver diseases does long-term drinking cause?
If you drink excessively, your liver is working overtime, trying to metabolize all of that alcohol. Over time, you may develop a fatty liver or even alcoholic hepatitis. Alcoholic hepatitis can cause abdominal tenderness, nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue, and even weight loss.
What are the long-term effects of drinking alcohol on the liver?
Over time, damage to your liver can leave permanent scar tissue or fibrosis. As your liver attempts to regenerate and repair itself, you may develop cirrhosis, a disorganized pattern of liver regeneration that leads to poor liver functioning.
After quitting alcohol use, some people choose to take herbal supplements, such as milk thistle, to help detox and cleanse the liver. See your doctor before starting any kind of over-the-counter supplement, including herbal remedies.
What are the long-term effects of alcohol on the heart?
Drinking too much can directly damage the heart. Alcohol use can raise your blood pressure, putting a strain on your cardiovascular system.
Drinking can also lead to cardiomyopathy and arrhythmias, or an irregular heart rate. Heavy, long-term alcohol use can result in permanent damage to the heart and serious heart disease. Abusing alcohol can lead to damage to the blood vessels as well.
What other organ damage can result from alcohol abuse?
The pancreas is an organ that aids in digestion and metabolism. It is a unique organ in that it is both an endocrine and an exocrine gland.
Excessive alcohol consumption can damage the pancreas and lead to pancreatitis. Alcohol intoxication is a significant cause of pancreatitis, a painful and life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas.
Long-term alcohol use can also lead to kidney disease. Damage to the kidneys can be a result of high blood pressure caused by alcohol abuse. Straining the liver can result in a strain on the kidney, leading to damage of both organ systems.
How does alcohol abuse affect the digestive tract?
Excessive, long-term drinking can cause bleeding esophageal varices, a life-threatening condition of the esophagus. Chronic gastritis, stomach ulcers, and other stomach ailments can also occur.
Can the long-term effect of alcohol on the body include problems with the lungs?
Indirectly, lung damage and infections may occur because of heavy alcohol intake. Alcohol abuse may cause breathing difficulties and low levels of nitric oxide.
If I get drunk and keep drinking, what will happen?
Acute alcohol intoxication can kill. Unfortunately, we hear many stories about young adults in college who are encouraged to drink excessively.
Fraternity hazing is a practice that has come under fire in recent decades because there have been multiple incidents of alcohol-related deaths. There have been terrifying stories of college students locked in the trunk of a car or a closet, not allowed to come out until they consume a massive amount of alcohol. These incidents resulted in alcohol overdose deaths from alcohol poisoning on multiple occasions.
What if I only get drunk on the weekends?
There is a condition recognized in recent years, known as “gray-area drinking.” A gray area drinker is a person who drinks excessively, but not every day. Some people define gray-area drinking as being any level of drinking between abstinence and being an alcoholic.
A gray area drinker may binge drink on the weekends and then recover from the binge drinking during the week. How does a person know if they are a gray area drinker apposed to having alcohol use disorder?
As the name implies, there is a gray area, where the distinction is not clear. If you are concerned about excess drinking, you should see your doctor for a full examination, even if you believe that you may only be a gray area drinker.
Is it safe if I just quit drinking, cold turkey?
Alcohol withdrawal can be a life-threatening event in some cases. Some of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include insomnia, anxiety, depression, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, vomiting, and sweating. In more severe cases, there can be hallucinations and even seizures. These seizures can be dangerous.
Additionally, there is a deadly condition known as delirium tremens or DTs. DTs involve confusion, shaking, shivering, sweating, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations, and sometimes high body temperature and seizures.
If you drink heavily every single day, you should see your doctor about medically-assisted detoxification. A short-term detox may include anxiolytic medication, such as chlordiazepoxide (Librium). Nutritional supplements, including thiamine and folate, are also essential. Protocols for detox will vary from one treatment program to another.
Is there a medically-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction after detox?
Therapy with a psychologist can be beneficial to explore childhood issues, traumas. Your therapist can also help you to identify triggers in your life and how to deal with them.
Some medications can help you to stay alcohol-free. There is acamprosate, known by the brand-name Campral. Acamprosate works on the GABA receptor and helps smooth out the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and prevent alcohol cravings.
Another medication for alcohol cravings is naltrexone. Naltrexone is available in Vivitrol, a monthly injection, and also in daily tablets. Naltrexone can help prevent the alcohol deprivation effect, where a person may obsess over alcohol for months after quitting drinking.
Can the long-term side effects of alcohol be managed if a person continues to drink?
Doctors prescribe naltrexone daily after a person has quit drinking. If they follow The Sinclair Method (TSM), they prescribe naltrexone for the patient to take it one hour before drinking. TSM uses the principle of pharmacological extinction to help people reduce and eliminate drinking alcohol over time. TSM is a well-respected method of treatment around the world, but not as popular in the united states.
Medication-assisted treatment of alcohol use disorder increases the likelihood that you will stop drinking. It will give your body a chance to recover from the consequences of alcohol use.
Can Alcoholics Anonymous help with the effects of alcohol on my body?
If AA can help you not to drink long-term, It will help promote physical recovery and healing. However, for some people, AA can be more harmful than helpful. If you find that you are triggered to relapse and drink again while working in the AA program, it may not be the right path for you. Also, beware, groups, where smoking and unhealthy eating is encouraged can work against your progress in physical healing.
Alcohol is not beneficial for your health.
Alcohol use at any level can increase your risks for long-term health problems. You can live a healthy and fulfilling life without any alcohol.
While your body and mind can recover fully from most of the effects of alcohol after you quit, it is possible to have permanent and severe consequences from drinking.
The best time to quit drinking was at the time when you first started. The next best time to stop is right now. Even if you are not ready to entirely quit drinking, you can begin a plan to reduce your alcohol intake.
See your doctor and find out if alcohol has caused any health problems.
To get started, first see your doctor. Find out if your health has already been adversely affected by alcohol. Then, you can discuss your various options for reducing or stopping your drinking of alcohol.
If your doctor is not familiar with the treatment of alcohol use disorder, you may decide to see a doctor with experience in treating alcohol dependence. If you are interested in specific treatment methods, you may want to see a doctor with expertise in those areas.
For example, if you are interested in the monthly Vivitrol injection, you can find doctors who administer this treatment. The manufacturer for Vivitrol has a list of nationwide providers on its website.
If you are interested in The Sinclair Method, you may want to consider seeing a doctor who provides TSM to their patients. Your family doctor or internist can initiate your treatment by examining you and ordering appropriate blood tests.
If your doctor is concerned about issues with specific organ systems, they may refer you to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist, for problems with the digestive system. In addition to seeing your primary care doctor, you may also see an addictionologist or doctor with experience in treating alcoholism about medically-assisted treatment.