In this blog post, we answer the question “Is alcohol addiction dangerous?” At Ocean Recovery Centre, our alcohol detox clinic treats hundreds of clients suffering from alcoholism each month.
With this insight, we can categorically say that alcohol addiction is incredibly dangerous to your health. When we say ‘health’ we mean both your mental and physical wellbeing.
However broadly categorising alcoholism as ‘dangerous’ is rather useless advice for the chronic alcoholic suffering from intense cravings when alcohol is withdrawn.
For this reason, we have decided to write an entire article addressing the specific reasons for why alcohol addiction is dangerous to your health.
#1. Alcoholism causes anaemia
Anaemia occurs when the blood is denied haemoglobin (i.e. iron). Haemoglobin carries blood to cells throughout the body. Anaemia is caused by a loss of blood or damage to bone marrow. Alcohol is toxic to bone marrow and haemoglobin. Thus, people suffering from alcoholism are also more likely to suffer from anaemia.
#2. Alcoholism causes cancer
Alcoholism is linked with several types of cancer, particularly liver, breast, stomach and digestive cancer.
Alcohol increases the production of oestrogen in the body. Many cancerous tumours are oestrogen fed. This means alcohol consumption will allow these tumours to thrive. Alcohol also converts into acetaldehyde in the liver. Acetaldehyde is highly toxic and causes the common ‘hangover’. Acetaldehyde is also a carcinogen. Acetaldehyde damages DNA throughout the body. DNA damage prevents old cells from repairing and also encourages tumour growth. Acetaldehyde also increases the rate in which new liver cells will grow. This increased rate of growth leaves the liver wide open to cancerous tumour growth.
The stomach and throat are also susceptible to this phenomena since these organs are also responsible for the metabolization of acetaldehyde.
Alcohol consumption poses an even greater cancer risk for those who also use tobacco products. This is because tobacco damages the body’s cells. This means combining alcohol and tobacco compounds cell damage. Thus, the risk of getting cancer is multiplied.
Alcoholism also reduces the amount of blood folate. Folate helps our cells manufacture new strands of DNA. Scientists believe that lower levels of folate may contribute to the formation of cancerous tumours.
#3. Alcoholism causes heart disease
Drinking small amounts of alcohol is said to decrease the risk of having a heart attack.
However, many of alcohol’s beneficial effects on the heart disappear once you’ve consumed over a certain number of units.
Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of blood clotting in the arteries that lead to your heart. These arteries will narrow causing the heart to work harder in order to receive blood. This is similar to a refrigerator left with its door left open forcing it to work harder in order to keep cool. As applied to the heart, this is known as coronary heart disease. Eventually, not enough blood reaches the heart. This means the heart is starved of oxygen and essential nutrients. A lack of blood supply damages muscles contained within the heart. This may stop the heart from beating. This condition is known as alcoholic cardiomyopathy. This means blood will not be pumped around the body. The body is therefore starved of oxygen. Common symptoms of coronary heart disease include swelling in your feet and legs.
#4. Alcoholism damages your liver
Excessive alcohol use is capable of damaging your liver. This includes ‘fatty liver disease’, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and alcoholic hepatitis. Collectively these illnesses are known as ‘Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD)’.
Alcohol forms a metabolite known as acetaldehyde in the liver. Acetaldehyde is toxic to the liver’s cells. Scientists believe liver cells are damaged during the breakdown of this metabolite.
#5. Alcoholism causes a form of dementia
Alcoholism may lead to a condition known as ‘Korsakoff Syndrome’. This is caused by a deficiency in thiamine/vitamin B1. Vitamin B1 aids the brain by allowing it to form energy from blood sugar. The brain utilises vitamin B1 in the formation of new memories. Alcoholism destroys the brain’s ability to convert vitamin B1 into energy. This leads to a condition similar to dementia where sufferers are unable to form new memories.
#6. Alcoholism causes depression
Alcoholism significantly affects sufferers’ general level of wellbeing.
Scientists have not yet pinpointed why alcoholism leads to depression but the statistics paint a clear picture. Those suffering from alcoholism are much more likely to suffer from clinical depression. This includes a heightened risk of self-harm and suicide.
Alcohol affects neurotransmitters in the brain. This includes GABA-A, dopamine and serotonin. All of these chemicals are linked to mental health issues so it is not surprising to hear that alcoholism affects sufferers’ sense of wellbeing.
#7. Alcoholism can trigger a seizure
Chronic alcoholism is linked with epilepsy and seizures. These seizures are commonly known as an ‘alcohol withdrawal seizures.’
This is because alcohol affects neurotransmitters contained within the brain such as GABA-A. GABA-A is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This means GABA-A slows down nerve cells within the brain. When an alcoholic stops drinking alcohol, GABA-A is reduced.
This jolts the central nervous system into a state of hyperactivity. This hyperactivity causes seizures as well as hallucinations. If an alcohol withdrawal is not treated with medication then these seizures are life threatening and a medical emergency.
#8. Alcoholism causes gout
Gout is a form of arthritis. Gout is caused when uric acid crystals form in joints. This causes severe swelling in the joints, especially near the ‘big toe’. Gout is largely a hereditary disorder, although alcoholism and a poor diet are known to aggravate a pre-existing occurrence of gout.
Drinking beer is thought to double your chances of getting gout. Scientists believe beer causes gout because of its high purine content. During digestion, purine forms uric acid. The kidney is unable to process this abundance of uric acid. Uric acid thus forms crystal deposits in the joints causing gout.
#9. Alcoholism causes high blood pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) increases your risk of having a heart attack and a stroke.
Excessive alcohol consumption causes weight gain. In turn weight gain causes high blood pressure.
High blood pressure means blood is forced upon the walls of blood vessels as the blood travels to different regions of your body. This strain on blood vessels may cause a stroke.
A stroke is caused when an artery inside the brain gets blocked or begins to bleed. This blockage disrupts the blood supply to the brain.
Abstinence from alcohol will almost immediately result in lower blood pressure. This in turn lowers your risk of suffering from a stroke or heart attack.
#10. Alcoholism damages the pancreas
Chronic alcoholism leads to inflammation of the pancreas. This leads to a condition known as chronic pancreatitis. The pancreas secretes digestive fluid used by the intestines during the digestion of food. Alcoholism thus disrupts this process. Symptoms of the condition severe pain in the abdominal region. Sufferers also experience chronic diarrhoea.
Because the pancreas is inflamed, its enzymes are allowed to flood into the bloodstream. These enzymes eventually make their way to the kidney. The kidney is unable to process these enzymes. This may lead to kidney failure and death.
Scientists are unsure how alcoholism causes pancreatitis. One therapy is that alcohol damages cells contained in the pancreas, causing inflammation.
Alcoholics who smoke are at an even greater risk of suffering from pancreatitis. This is because tobacco is believed to enhance the harmful side-effect alcohol has on the pancreas.
Around 10,000 people are treated for pancreas each year. For many of these people, the damage is irreversible. Around fifty percent of sufferers develop diabetes. This is because their compromised pancreas is unable to produce insulin. Insulin is the hormone used to regulate blood sugar.
Furthermore, pancreatitis significantly increases your risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The prognosis for pancreatic cancer is extremely poor. Most suffers die within the first six months of contracting the disease.
#11. Alcoholism damages your nerves
Chronic alcoholism causes a condition known as ‘alcoholic neuropathy’. Symptoms of this condition include a painful ‘pins and needles’/numbness sensation felt in the arms and legs. Scientists believe this condition may arise because alcohol is toxic to nerve cells. Other theories state the condition is attributable to poor nutrition that typically accompanies alcoholism.
#12. Alcoholism damages your immune system
Alcoholism exhausts your body. This in turn weakens your immune system. Your immune system is a vast network of organs, tissues and cells that work in tandem to one another in fighting off viruses, infections and diseases. Furthermore, many alcoholics do not receive ample sleep. This is usually coupled with malnutrition due to the addict’s refusal to eat enough food to meet daily energy needs.
Chronic alcoholism weakens the immune system. This allows ‘opportunist’ diseases a ‘toehold’ for infections. These infections include pneumonia, tuberculosis, Hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases.
A build-up of alcohol in your bloodstream may lead to a condition known as ‘toxic shock’. Toxic shock is a medical emergency. You will require a high dose of antibiotics until the illness is fully cured.
If you suffer from any of the above health problems then it is vital you seek help as soon as possible. Many of the above illnesses are a medical emergency requiring immediate medical attention. We advise you to visit your GP without delay.
If you suffer from alcoholism then it is essential you stop drinking. Continuing to drink will aggravate your symptoms. In fact, stopping drinking may entirely reverse many of the abov illnesses. We also encourage you to seek out nutritional advice and then go about making improvements to your diet.
Many alcoholics require a medically assisted detox. Ocean Recovery Centre operates an alcohol detox clinic in Blackpool, Lancashire. Call today for more information on 01253 847 553 or contact us through this website.
Posted on Monday, November 23rd, 2015 at 3:36 pm in Alcohol Addiction.