How Daily Alcohol Use Affects Mental and Physical Health

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Drinking alcohol has been a part of the human experience for many centuries. People go out for drinks to celebrate. Stressful day at work? Some drink a glass of wine to unwind from that stressful day. But drinking alcohol daily can adversely affect both mental and physical health.

Alcohol-Related Brain Impairment

Alcohol consumption is one of the many causes of acquired brain injury. A cluster of problems caused by alcohol misuse is called alcohol-related brain impairment (ARBI). ARBI can consist of problems with memory, coordination and thought processing. Severity is determined by age, gender, amount of alcohol consumed, duration of drinking and nutrition. 

Here are some ways alcohol causes damage to the brain and body:

  • Alcohol is toxic to the central nervous system.
  • The absorption of thiamine, an important brain nutrient, is altered by alcohol.
  • Diminished coordination and balance can cause falls and subsequent brain injury.
  • Alcohol alters metabolism and can be related to poor nutrition.
  • Changes in heart function and blood circulation can affect blood flow to the brain.

There are a variety of neurological problems that can be caused by alcohol use. Some of these are:

  • Wernicke’s encephalopathy: A disorder caused by a severe deficiency of thiamine. Symptoms include ataxia, confusion and problems with vision.
  • Cerebellar atrophy: The cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for muscle coordination. Damage to this area of the brain results in difficulties with balance and walking.
  • Frontal lobe dysfunction: The brain’s frontal lobes are involved in abstract thinking, planning, problem-solving and emotion. Damage to the frontal lobe causes cognitive difficulties.

ARBI is much more likely to occur or be more profound for people who drink heavily over a long period. However, ARBI can happen over a short period when people engage in binge drinking. Even though the highest risk for impairment is for those who drink heavily over a long period or people who binge drink, there is no safe amount of alcohol to consume. It is good to remember that even drinking a small amount daily affects the brain and body in small increments that can still add up over time.

The Risk of Developing Dependence or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Drinking alcohol is widely accepted in countries across the globe. It is glamorized and even rewarded in some instances. It often seems like people do not really consider the addictive power that alcohol can exert. Drinking one drink a day or less for women and two drinks or less a day for men is considered drinking in moderation. However, sometimes it is hard to stop at one or two drinks.

Why is it so hard to stop drinking alcohol after just a couple of drinks? Is there something wrong with anyone who has to have a drink daily or who cannot stop after just a couple? No, there is nothing wrong with people who can’t seem to stop drinking. Alcohol exerts a powerful effect on the brain’s reward pathways, and those pathways are rarely under our voluntary control. Alcohol activates the brain’s reward centers and the brain will make you start to want more of what gives that jolt of pleasure.

People who drink alcohol daily, especially those who drink heavily, will crave more alcohol to get that same feeling again. Over time, the brain’s chemistry and neurobiology are altered and it becomes unable to function without the alcohol.

Alcohol Takes a Toll on Mental Health

Initially, alcohol can improve mood and decrease anxiety. However, over the long-term, it can exact a heavy toll on a person’s mental health

The brain has a delicate balance of neurotransmitters and it works to maintain that balance. Alcohol upsets that balance by causing the brain to be flooded with feel-good chemicals and neurotransmitters. The brain will try to maintain homeostasis by releasing chemicals and neurotransmitters that can increase anxiety and decrease one’s mood. 

Daily Drinking and Physical Health

Drinking over an extended time can cause cardiac problems like hypertension, stroke and arrhythmias. It can also wreck the liver, causing fatty liver, cirrhosis of the liver and alcohol-induced hepatitis. People who drink for an extended time often develop pancreatitis, which is painful and can be dangerous. Alcohol increases the risk for multiple types of cancer and it even weakens the immune system. Even a single occasion of heavy drinking can lower the body’s ability to fight off illnesses. This effect can last up to 24 hours after heavy drinking. 

Because alcohol is such a large aspect of our culture, it can be easy to forget the dangers it can pose to your physical and mental health. If you are ready to quit drinking, look no further than Casa Palmera in Del Mar, California. You will get the treatment and support you need to begin your new, alcohol-free life. We understand that for real change to happen we have to treat more than your symptoms. Healing begins when the mind-body-spirit connection is honored and care is targeted toward each. At Casa Palmera, we embrace a holistic model of care alongside evidence-based therapies. Call Casa Palmera today (855) 508-0473 to learn more about our services.