Long Term Effects of Alcohol

Last Updated: Feb 24th 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Long Term Effects of Alcohol

16 to 17 million American adults are currently struggling with an alcohol use disorder. Only a small number of these individuals seeks out treatment. Other statistics show that among preventable causes of death, alcohol-related fatalities rank third. Avoid becoming a statistic—learn about the long term effects of alcohol today.

Brain Damage Compounds with Long-time Alcohol Use

You’ve likely heard the quip that alcohol kills brain cells. Typically, this statement elicits a chuckle. In truth, though, alcohol has the power to interfere with neuronal pathways. That’s why people stagger and slur their speech after drinking too much alcohol.

Interference with the pathways also results in memory impairments. In the short term, these blackouts cause people to miss entire portions of an event. However, if individuals continue drinking heavily for months or years, the effects compound. Pathways that typically reestablish themselves fail to do so.

Long term, your reaction times slow and you’re at a higher risk of suffering a stroke. Along with physical manifestations such as a fatty liver and high blood pressure, your organs experience life-threatening outcomes. As you continue drinking alcohol, your immune system can no longer fight off infections.

Poor Nutrition Leads to Further Long Term Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol eliminates vitamin B in your system. In particular, it diminishes thiamin, which is vitamin B1. This nutritional building block plays a pivotal role in nervous system health. In the short term, intoxication leads to temporary double vision, which is familiar to most people.

If you keep overindulging, however, your body runs low on thiamin on a more consistent basis. This deficiency can result in the development of mental confusion, coordination problems affecting the extremities, and vision problems. An extreme expression of this condition is the Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which can produce false memories.

Getting Help Now Prevents Worse Effects in the Future

If you have avoided seeking help because of the fear of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you need to rethink your decision. Medically supervised withdrawal for substance abuse can keep you healthy and comfortable during the process. While in rehab, therapists help you to get out from under the cravings. Examples of modalities include:

  • Inpatient treatment for a complete change of scenery
  • One-on-one treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy that emphasizes support network formation
  • Holistic treatments to help with physical manifestations of alcohol abuse
  • Treatment of co-occurring disorders to get to the “why” of your addiction

If you do nothing, the long term effects of alcohol addiction begin to build up. Cirrhosis of the liver is a common alcohol-related illness that eventually leads to death. Changes to the brain can create a variety of disorders as well as worsen mental illness. Of course, there’s also the interpersonal side of effects to consider. Alcoholism gradually isolates you from others, causing you to feel alone and misunderstood.

If you or a loved one suffers from an alcohol use disorder, get help now. It’s possible to stop or limit many of the adverse effects that alcohol abuse brings about. Therapists at 1st Step Behavioral are standing by to help. Call (866) 319-6126 today for assistance.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.