When a person consumes alcohol it can affect the healthy operation of the brain. Neurotransmitters within the brain carry information from one part to another, and alcohol can slow that communication down. This helps explain why speech becomes slurred and steps falter after drinking. Neurotransmitter disruption may also be behind the forgetfulness which can follow a night of heavy drinking.
Heavy drinking can eventually produce liver disease and that, in turn, further affects normal brain function. As the liver becomes less able to filter the toxins from alcohol more of them travel to the brain where they can negatively impact mood, increase depression, anxiety, descrease attention span, sleep and muscle control, and lead to personality change.
One of the chief functions of the liver, among its nearly 500 duties, is to filter the body’s blood. Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, which is then carried to the liver. A healthy liver removes toxins from the blood, but healthy livers also release vital proteins, enzymes and store other essential nutrients.
Drinking can produce excess fat in the liver which can go on to create fibrous or scarred tissue. At each stage of liver disease this vital organ becomes less capable of cleansing, aiding in nutritional absorption and protecting against infection. Unfiltered toxins travel freely to other organs and cause damage while lowered nutrition further weakens the body’s defenses.
When a person swallows alcohol a good amount of it is absorbed through cell walls into the blood stream, but not all. Some alcohol will travel unabsorbed into the stomach where it irritates the stomach lining. That irritation triggers the release of digestive acids. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can actually hinder the digestive process, leaving the alcohol to sit in the stomach where it can cause tissue damage. If the drinker is taking medications like Aspirin or acetaminophen which irritate the stomach lining the damage is amplified and ulcers may result.
Only over the past 10-20 years has it been understood how heavy drinking damages the lungs. New scientific investigation is revealing how chronic drinking affects the epithelial lining of air passageways and harms vital white blood cells. This means that young people who seem quite healthy but who over indulge are at increased risk whenever trauma is done to the lungs or airways. A condition now being termed alcoholic lung makes a drinker more at risk any time lung function is compromised through disease or injury.
Long-term and heavy drinking makes heart muscles weak, a condition referred to as alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Weak, sagging heart muscles are less able to pump life-giving blood to farther parts of the body. Restricted blood flow starves the brain and every other organ of oxygen and nutrition.
Alcohol can also produce erratic heartbeats. Weak and distressed heart muscles may beat either too fast or too slowly. It’s also known that heavy drinking increases the drinker’s risk of stroke by 39-59 percent. Furthermore, drinking alcohol is linked to high blood pressure and hypertension.
The List Goes On
Alcohol also negatively impacts the pancreas and can lead to acute pancreatitis and eventually diabetes. Alcohol is a diuretic and therefore also affects the kidneys. This is why drinkers make such frequent visits to the restroom during a night of drinking. Dehydration is a real danger for chronic drinkers.
As a culture we laugh at some of the side effects of drinking when, in fact, we should be alarmed and concerned. Organ dysfunction aren’t laughing matters.