How Risky Alcohol Usage Impacts You
Photo by Jerry Zhang on Unsplash
Written by: Sabrina Sourjah
Date Updated: 2/23/2021
Reviewed by: Patrick D. Randolph, Ph.D.
Frequent and heavy alcohol usage will impact you in multiple ways. Alcohol does not get digested like other food. So, it enters your bloodstream quickly and travels to various organs. The brain, kidney, lungs, and liver are first impacted.
Your tolerance — based on gender, weight, age, metabolism, previous intake of food, medications you’re on, and type of alcohol — will determine how quickly you feel the effect. When alcohol is mixed with fruit juice or water, absorption slows down, while mixers and fizzy drinks quicken the absorption.
How much alcohol is too much?
For women of all ages and men over 65, more than three drinks a day or more than seven drinks a week is considered high-risk drinking. For men aged 65 and younger, heavy drinking is defined as more than four drinks a day or more than 14 drinks a week.
Heavy drinking can impact your health in the following ways.
1. Overall Health
Alcohol usage is connected to many diseases like stroke, high blood pressure, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and pancreatitis. Based on research by the National Cancer Institute, heavy alcohol consumption is also linked to head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer.
Your immunity system can be compromised due to chronic drinking, and immunity can remain compromised up to 24 hours from the time of consumption.
2. Surgery Outcomes
Heavy drinking can interfere with the anesthesia and decrease the efficacy of medications. This can, in turn, slow down the healing of wounds and lengthen the hospital stay for recovery.
Lowered immunity can also make you susceptible to pneumonia, urinary tract infection, and sepsis. The possibility of surgical site infections, postoperative seizures, patient falls, and bleeding episodes are higher for a heavy drinker.
According to research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “people hospitalized with alcohol use disorder die 24–28 years earlier than people in the general population”. The study was conducted on the population in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden. This shows a significant hit on longevity for risky drinkers. With health risks like cancer and cirrhosis, it is evident that longevity can be impacted by too much alcohol.
4. Life Satisfaction
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines life satisfaction as “the extent to which a person finds life rich, meaningful, full, or of high quality.” Research suggests that reasonable alcohol consumption increases life satisfaction while chronic drinking lowers your fulfillment.
When brain functionality is impacted due to alcohol, your mood and behavior can change. You tend to become incoherent and make unwise decisions that may take years to untangle. Relationships with loved ones can also crumble due to your behavior under the influence of alcohol. The combined impact on your health and relationships can make life unfulfilling over time.
5. Mental Health
Although heavy drinking can lead to mental health deterioration, it is also possible that heavy drinking is a response to untreated mental illness. There is evidence that alcohol abuse is linked to mental health conditions like major depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
Risky alcohol usage can sometimes result in driving under the influence. This can lead to irreversible accidents that can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Chronic drinking can aggravate suicidal behavior as well. Should you abstain from alcohol?
Recreational drinking promotes positive social relationships in some cases and can also help deal with stress. Additionally, a moderate amount of alcohol can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, or ischemic stroke at times. But it’s best to keep alcohol usage at a minimum due to all the adverse impacts discussed above.
When to avoid alcohol
To limit adverse impact on your health, you should avoid drinking under these circumstances:
- If you are pregnant
- If you are diagnosed with alcoholism, or you have a family history of alcoholism
- Before and after surgery
- If you had a heart failure
- If you have liver, kidney, or pancreatic disease
- If you are taking medication that can be negatively impacted by alcohol