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What Does Alcohol Do to Your Body? Short-Term and Long-Term Effects

what does alcohol do to your body

Many of us are familiar with the buzzy, inebriating effects of alcohol consumption, and how drinking can alter everything from your perception to your physical coordination. But why do these symptoms go hand in hand with booze, and what does alcohol do to your body on a more fundamental level?

Getting drunk is one thing, but alcohol consumption goes beyond immediate effects to other short-term and long-term impacts on your well-being. Alcohol's ramifications are far-reaching, affecting various systems within the body and contributing to a range of health issues, especially when consumed excessively. To better understand this relationship, let’s explore some of the most significant ways that alcohol can interact with your physiology.

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Use

In the short term, alcohol quickly interacts with your brain, and it’s this interaction that produces the typical signs of intoxication. Shortly following alcohol consumption, individuals may feel and display the physiological and cognitive changes that are hallmarks of drunkenness.

Alcohol immediately affects your brain by altering its normal functions, leading to changes in mood, behavior, and coordination. It increases the activity of GABA, a neurotransmitter that produces feelings of relaxation and calmness. It also decreases the activity of glutamate, leading to slower brain function. This can result in impaired judgment and physical coordination, reduced inhibitions, slowed reflexes, and distorted perception — which can in turn reduce an individual's ability to make safe decisions and perform motor tasks accurately.

Alcohol also affects mood and emotional stability, often leading to heightened emotions or mood swings. Even moderate amounts can result in slurred speech and erratic behavior as your brain is influenced by alcohol.

Long-Term Alcohol Misuse and Your Physical Health

As we delve deeper, we must also look at the prolonged effects of alcohol, where the damage becomes more apparent and serious. Chronic alcohol consumption has profound effects on the body, including damage to some of our most crucial organs and systems.

Kidney and Liver Problems

In the face of long-term alcohol misuse, the liver — responsible for metabolizing alcohol — can become overwhelmed, leading to fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and eventually, cirrhosis. This not only impairs liver function but can also be life-threatening.

Similarly, the kidneys — which help regulate fluid and electrolyte balance — can be adversely affected by alcohol consumption, leading to an increased risk of kidney disease.

Alcohol and Heart Health

Long-term alcohol use can also play a significant role in your overall heart health. Excessive alcohol can lead to high blood pressure and cardiomyopathy, a condition where the heart muscle weakens, making it harder to pump blood. Alcohol abuse also increases the risk of developing heart disease and suffering from strokes.

Alcohol and Cancer

It’s well-known that vices like smoking and vaping can contribute to the development of cancer, but we often overlook the similar threat posed by alcohol abuse. Regular alcohol consumption is linked to a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, including those affecting the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, stomach, pancreas, and breast. The risk increases with the amount and duration of alcohol use.

Gut Health vs. Regular Alcohol Consumption

Your digestive tract is host to a range of healthy bacteria that help you process food, known as your gut’s microbiome. This tiny environment of helpful microorganisms can have a surprisingly far-reaching impact on your health, and keeping it balanced can benefit everything from your skin and heart health to your immune system.

However, studies suggest that alcohol can disrupt the gut microbiome and contribute to inflammation, leading to gastrointestinal issues such as gastritis and ulcers. It also interferes with the body's ability to absorb nutrients, which can contribute to malnutrition.

Alcohol and Mental Health Issues

While some people casually partake in alcohol for social or recreational reasons, others may turn to the oblivion of alcohol as a way to self-medicate for stress or other issues. Unfortunately, alcohol's effect on mental health reveals that this sought-after relief can morph into long-term psychological distress.

Alcohol and Anxiety

While some individuals may reach for a drink to cope with anxiety, chronic alcohol use can actually exacerbate anxiety disorders and contribute to the development of depression.

Alcohol Dementia

Prolonged alcohol misuse can lead to a decline in cognitive function, resulting in a condition known as alcohol-related dementia. This condition affects memory and problem-solving skills, and can even alter an individual’s personality.

Are There Any Benefits to Moderate Alcohol Consumption?

Over the years, different groups have conducted studies to rationalize the use of alcohol or quantify the “perfect” amount to drink. Some of the resulting research suggests that moderate alcohol consumption may have some health benefits, such as a potentially lower risk of heart disease and ischemic stroke. However, given the potential risks, these benefits are not sufficient to recommend alcohol consumption — especially to individuals who do not already drink.

Embrace Sobriety with Countrywide Testing

Alcohol affects the body in multiple ways, from immediate impairment to long-term health risks. Understanding these effects is crucial for making informed decisions about alcohol consumption. For those struggling with alcohol use disorder, numerous resources and treatment options are available to support recovery and help mitigate the adverse effects on health.

One key to alcohol rehabilitation is early recognition and support. If you think that a friend or loved one may be abusing alcohol, Countrywide Testing can provide the answers you need. We offer discreet, at-home alcohol and drug testing kits that will help you confirm a loved one's substance use and help get them started on the road to recovery.

Countrywide offers an array of drug testing products for workplace testing, healthcare emergencies, law enforcement purposes, and individuals trying to stay clean after rehab. These include a range of alcohol test kits to support the process of an alcohol detox. Our test kits are convenient, affordable, and ship to you quickly. Plus, our lab is accredited by SAMHSA, so you can rest assured your test results are handled in accordance with the highest industry standards.

Want more information on how Countrywide can support a cleaner, safer lifestyle? Just contact our team today.