Lesser-Known Risks of Long-Time Alcohol Abuse
For most adults, it’s been a long time since they took a health class. This means that even if they learned all the potential risks of drinking back when they were in high school, it’s likely that they didn’t retain too much of it. Beyond the message of “don’t drink and drive,” it’s safe to say that the vast majority of people don’t truly understand what can happen if they abuse alcohol. While mental health and other issues play into alcohol abuse, it’s important to understand that consuming too much can put many areas of your health at risk. These can include cancer, brain damage, and more. These are just a few of the lesser-known risks of long-time alcohol abuse.
Significant Brain Changes
Have you ever heard of wet brain? It’s a condition known to affect long-time alcohol abusers. Some of the symptoms of wet brain include confusion and trouble formulating words, vision changes, clinical reduction in brain activity, and more. There are two types of wet brain, one of them is considered reversible and the other is not. Drinking large amounts of alcohol depletes the body of B1 and thiamine. Both are critical for multiple body systems including the brain.
When the body goes without those necessary nutrients for too long, the symptoms of wet brain begin to show up. If left untreated, patients may start to experience more severe psychosis, hallucinations, memory loss, and even an inability to create memories. For the version of wet brain that is treatable, patients need to cease all alcohol use and also get injections of the B1 and thiamine until the symptoms have been reversed.
Not only are alcohol abusers prone to liver cancer, they are also at extreme risk of other cancers such as breast cancer, mouth cancer, esophageal cancer, and even throat cancer. Because of the constant alcohol use, their cells are more prone to damage, which can ultimately lead to cancer. While they can sometimes be treated, if they are not caught early enough, all some doctors can do is offer comfort care and maybe extend their life just a little longer. Cancer of the throat and mouth can be especially painful and surgeries to correct it may leave patients with a permanent trach.
The primary role of the liver is to filter out toxins. Alcohol is a toxin to the body. When it is constantly tasked with filtering out more and more toxins, this can leave people with higher blood alcohol content, cellular damage, and more. As the liver continues to be overworked, it can start to shut down and no longer perform its duties. Some of this damage can be reversed after cessation of alcohol, but in many cases, it is permanent and is the primary cause of the need for liver transplants in adults.
Poor Immune Health
Those who abuse alcohol may find themselves constantly sick. If you’re wondering why it feels like you can’t ever get any better, consider how alcohol is affecting your immune system. It does this primarily by lowering your white blood cell count and decreasing the absorption of essential nutrients. Just like those with wet brains are deficient in thiamine and B1, alcohol abusers are likely deficient in other nutrients as well. Alcohol also changes the cells in the lungs to reduce their ability to ward off respiratory infections. Many alcoholics experience a specific kind of cough that is because the hairs in the lungs are impaired from doing their job effectively.
Oral Health Problems
Teeth are another area that are impacted by alcohol abuse. Since teeth are bones and many alcoholics experience mineral and nutrient deficiencies, it should come as no surprise that oral health would be impacted by excessive alcohol use. Not only the teeth but the mouth and throat are also affected. Alcohol abuse can cause teeth to rot, cavities, mouth sores, gum infections, a rise in gingivitis, dry mouth, and more.
It’s important to recognize that while there is some evidence that cavities can be reversed with proper diet and alcohol cessation, it’s more likely that those teeth would eventually need to be pulled instead. Of course, as noted previously, mouth and oral cancers are also a big problem when it comes to drinking too much alcohol.