The effects of prolonged drinking – especially during the festive season
During the Christmas and New Year festive seasons there is an increase in parties, family and social gatherings, and work functions. While the holiday season is a great time of year, it can also be a time of excess, we overindulge, especially when it comes to alcohol consumption.
While it can be easy to overlook, alcohol affects us in more ways than one. It is a central nervous system depressant, meaning that it slows down the brain’s normal function. Constantly exposing these areas to alcohol can cause permanent, irreversible brain damage. In fact, long-term drinking can have serious physical and mental health risks. If you’re a drinker, here are the risk factors you should be aware of before having another drink.
What is prolonged drinking?
Prolonged drinking is when someone drinks alcohol over some time and it has deleterious effects on their health and well-being. This could be a few weeks or months, or even years. The longer you drink, the more likely it is that your body will suffer from the effects of alcohol poisoning and damage caused by heavy drinking.
It’s important to understand that prolonged drinking isn’t just binge drinking it can refer to any pattern of regular alcohol consumption over time which causes harm. The long-term heavy consumption of alcohol is also called alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence.
Short-term effects of alcohol consumption do not pose any serious health risks for most individuals, but it can still impair your judgment and decision-making skills. Heavy drinking over long periods can present more severe alcohol-related health problems such as liver damage, high blood pressure, and cancer.
Although there may be some health benefits associated with moderate drinking, it’s important to remember the potential risks involved when consuming alcohol in large amounts over the long term. Therefore, if you choose to drink alcohol, always do so responsibly and stay within the recommended limits set by healthcare professionals.
What are the long-term effects of alcohol use?
One of the most well-known effects of excessive drinking is liver damage. This can occur after years of drinking heavily or binge drinking over a short period. Heavy drinking strains the liver, leading to an accumulation of fat in the organ which can cause inflammation and scarring over time known as cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis increases your risk for serious complications such as liver failure or even death if not treated properly. Additionally, prolonged alcohol use can lead to other liver diseases such as alcoholic hepatitis (inflammation) and fibrosis (scarring). These conditions can worsen over time if left untreated or if you continue to drink heavily.
Mental health conditions
Alcohol affects mental health problems and emotional well-being. Research shows that there is an association between extended periods of heavy drinking and depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Alcohol-induced changes in brain chemistry have been linked to an increased risk for depression, anxiety, psychosis and suicidal thoughts.
Some research also suggests that frequent alcohol use may interfere with medications used to treat these conditions, especially those for substance abuse. So if you’re already taking medication for depression or anxiety, it might be best to stop drinking altogether or keep it at moderate levels.
While many people don’t realise it, extended periods of heavy drinking can cause heart disease and serious risks to your heart health as well. Studies show that individuals who consume high amounts of alcohol daily are at greater risk for developing high blood pressure and stroke due to changes in heart rhythm caused by prolonged alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction.
Long-term exposure has also been linked with an increased risk for certain types of cancers such as mouth cancer, throat cancer and breast cancer among others so if you are a heavy drinker consider quitting now before any long-term damage occurs.
The social effects of prolonged drinking are wide-ranging and often difficult to measure accurately. Heavy drinkers may experience difficulty forming relationships due to their alcohol use. They may also be at risk for legal problems due to impaired judgment or driving under the influence charges. Additionally, those who drink heavily over an extended period may find themselves dealing with financial difficulties due to their excessive spending on alcohol or related issues such as lost wages due to the side effects of their alcohol consumption.
Prolonged drinking of alcoholic beverages can lead to weight gain in multiple ways. Firstly, alcohol itself contains a high number of calories, which contribute to weight gain over time. Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption can reduce testosterone levels and hamper the body’s natural metabolic processes. This in turn reduces the body’s ability to break down fats and other nutrients efficiently, leading to an increase in fat stores and malnutrition. Finally, prolonged drinking can impair judgement and reduce inhibitions. This may cause an individual to exhibit bad dietary choices such as eating unhealthy snacks during a drinking session or having excessively large meals after one too many drinks.
All these factors can add up over time and result in considerable weight gain, if not managed properly. It is therefore important that you take steps to regulate your alcohol intake if you want to maintain a healthy weight profile.
High blood pressure
Excessive alcohol use can have a significant impact on blood pressure. Although it’s known that the occasional drink can help protect against coronary heart disease, drinking too much can increase blood pressure and strain blood vessels. Heavy drinking over a long period can gradually damage blood vessels, which leads to an increase in blood pressure. If someone notices worsening or persistent high blood pressure levels, it may be an indication that they are consuming too much alcohol.
It is possible to restore normal blood pressure levels with lifestyle changes and medical treatment but reducing alcohol intake is key to preventing further damage or health complications.
Prolonged drinking can cause serious damage to the pancreas, which is an organ located behind the stomach that plays an important role in digestion and insulin production.
Over time, drinking too much alcohol can lead to inflammation of the pancreas, also known as pancreatitis, which has very painful symptoms such as abdominal pain and nausea. Left untreated, this condition can even become life-threatening due to serious complications, including jaundice or organ failure.
Additionally, exposure to alcohol over a long period of time may cause the pancreas to produce too much fat under the name of fatty liver disease and increase your risk for other medical issues. If you are concerned about your drinking habits, it is important to talk with a healthcare provider about its impact on your health as soon as possible in order to reduce any potential lasting damage.
Weaken the immune system
Long-term alcohol consumption can have a significant impact on the functioning of your immune system. Some studies suggest that drinking for even a short amount of time can reduce the efficiency of your body’s ability to fight off viruses, bacteria and other illnesses. Additionally, heavy drinkers may experience higher levels of inflammation throughout their bodies, which further weakens the strength of their immune response. Heavy drinking can also lead to longer recovery times from injuries or bacterial infections as well as reduced protection from vaccines. Overall, long-term alcohol consumption should be avoided in order to maintain optimal immune system functioning and keep yourself healthy.
Alcohol consumption has long been linked to sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Over time, repeated drinking can have numerous effects on your sexual health. Women’s bodies may respond differently than men’s for instance, a woman may notice reduced estrogen levels after heavy alcohol use, leading to a loss of libido. Men might experience erectile dysfunction when their blood alcohol levels are high or fall asleep during sexual activity due to excessive drinking.
Additionally, both genders can experience the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases as alcohol lowers inhibitions and might place unfamiliar individuals at greater risk of unsafe behaviour.
These issues should be taken seriously, and it is important to discuss any potential changes in your sexual health with your healthcare provider so that you can get an accurate picture of what is happening in your body due to alcohol consumption.
Tips to drink less
There are lots of occasions when you might drink because you feel like you have to, like the 33% of drinkers who feel pressured to do so at their work Christmas party. You might also do it without realising, pouring a glass of wine after work or letting someone refill your glass or buy another round. Take a moment to think why you really want that drink before going for it.
- Plan some alcohol-free days
- Keep count of your standard drinks by pouring your own drinks to reduce your alcohol intake
- Eat before, and while, you are drinking to slow down the absorption of alcohol
- Alternate alcoholic drinks with low-alcohol or non-alcoholic drinks
- Plan family activities that don’t involve alcohol
- Set yourself some goals. The New Year is a great time to think about cutting down the amount of alcohol that you consume
- Avoid drinking on an empty stomach
- Drink plenty of water
What is alcohol poisoning?
It is the leading cause of poisoning in England, especially among young people. Alcohol poisoning is a serious, often life-threatening, condition that occurs when a person consumes large quantities of alcoholic beverages in a short period of time (binge drinking). This causes the body to become overwhelmed as it processes the alcohol in the bloodstream and can lead to catastrophic effects.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include confusion, difficulty staying conscious, blackouts, memory loss, extreme vomiting and an irregular heart rate. Alcohol poisoning can result in permanent neurological damage or even death if left untreated for too long. Protective measures like knowing one’s limits, eating food before and during drinking and seeking medical attention if anyone you know is showing signs of intoxication are key to avoiding this dangerous condition.
More information can be found in the Express lifestyle article, which talks about alcohol effects and the damage
Other helpful resources
- NHS risks of drinking too much guide
- NHS how to stop drinking
- CDC.GOV alcohol use
Now Patient is the UK’s first regulated digital health service that uses predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to provide you with personalised care and resources that can help improve your health outcomes, FREE of charge.
Prescriptions, healthcare resources & live video consultations all in one place for FREE