Medicine

The true costs of excessive alcohol consumption

This post originally appeared on Medical News Bulletin.

While no one would argue that drinking alcohol is healthy, there’s a big difference between enjoying the occasional drink or social evening and developing a dependency. Unfortunately, those lines easily become blurred for some, and it can be challenging for someone to recognize that shift in their behavior.

The CDC defines heavy drinking as the consumption of more than 15 drinks in a week for men, and eight a week for women. If you’re near or over that limit, consider these impacts that excessive alcohol consumption could be having on your life.

Negative Impacts on Relationships

Excessive alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on your relationships – romantic, familial, and otherwise. This impact could be direct, such as causing fights, engaging in toxic behavior, or generally doing or saying things that can cause harm. 

There are also more subtle impacts. If you have to cancel your plans with your kids because you’re hungover or can’t fulfill your responsibilities, it will cause friction over time. 

Many couples are also struggling with excessive alcohol consumption in light of the global pandemic. If you have been trying to get your behavior under control or notice a detrimental impact on your relationships, Couples Rehabs can provide programming and support.

Financial Implications

Excessive alcohol consumption can impact your finances both directly and indirectly. The direct impact is the cost of drinking. Whether you’re paying for alcohol at the local pub or stocking up at the liquor store, those purchases impact your disposable income. It’s important to sit down and look at how much money you’re spending on alcohol every month. 

There are also indirect financial costs that can arise from excessive alcohol consumption. If you miss work, you could be losing income. If you get in an accident or experience health issues related to drinking, you’ll have medical bills to cover.

Weakened Immune System

One of the biggest concerns from drinking excessively is the effect it can have on your immune system. This is especially relevant given the current global pandemic. Since excessive alcohol consumption is tied to immunosuppression, this can lead to the contraction of various illnesses, from the cold and flu to pneumonia over time. 

Your weakened immune system may also cause another indirect financial impact if you’re forced to take time off work or seek medical care. 

Increased Risk of Depression

While many of us think of alcohol as a way to relax, de-stress, and get out of a bad mood, it often has the opposite effect on a deeper level. Alcohol impacts the central nervous system (CNS), acting as a depressant. In turn, this impacts someone’s mood and behavior. 

Studies have shown a high prevalence of depression among those with substance abuse issues. In many cases, alcohol consumption contributes to a vicious cycle with mental health. People drink because they’re depressed, then get more depressed after drinking. It can be a tough cycle to break without help.

Poor Cognition and Judgment

It’s no secret that excessive drinking leads to poor decision-making and impulse control. People don’t recognize their inebriation and get behind the wheel of a car. They don’t think of the consequences of their actions and cheat on their spouse. The worst part is that alcohol also causes memory loss, so many people are unaware of what transpired until they’re told by someone else.

Someone who drinks too much one night might put a lampshade on their head and waste the following day with a hangover. Someone who drinks too much on a regular basis will have longer-term focus and memory issues, and are more likely to make one bad decision that alters the course of their life.

Damage to Digestive System

Alcohol is terrible for your digestive system. Excessive drinking can lead to ulcers, reflux, gum and tooth decay, and long-term inflammation. Additionally, the body processes alcohol differently, which will ultimately affect your metabolism and weight management. 

The severity of this damage will depend on how your body reacts to excessive alcohol. If you often vomit or experience gastrointestinal distress, you’re more likely to experience severe, long-term effects.

Increased Risk of Heart Disease

Alcohol also impacts the circulatory system. You may have heard that alcohol is a blood thinner. While this term is a bit of an oversimplification, it has merit. Alcohol can reduce clotting capabilities and limit your blood cells from coming together. Those with low blood pressure or anemia could feel the shorter-term implications rather quickly.

Because your body has to work harder to move oxygen throughout your system, high blood pressure goes hand-in-hand with excessive drinking. Over time, this can lead to cardiovascular disease or a fatal heart attack.

Disrupted Sleep Patterns

Finally, it’s important to understand the difference between passing out and sleeping. You may feel dead to the world when you pass out from alcohol consumption, but your sleep cycle is severely disrupted. Instead of getting the quality sleep you need to restore your immune system and maintain your hormone levels, you’re simply unconscious. Over time, these episodes will negatively impact your physical and mental health.

Recognizing the signs and understanding the implications of excessive drinking is the first step in making better choices. If you’re struggling to cut back or fight the compulsion to drink, reach out for help.

This post originally appeared on Medical News Bulletin.

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