Think the worst that alcohol can do to you is give you a hangover? Tell that to 35-year-old Beverley Pickorer (pictured), whose decade-long alcohol addiction led to a range of medical problems — chiefly cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) — that have left her bed-ridden and looking literally twice her age. And don’t think that it’s only hard liquor that can do this kind of damage to your body. Pickorer has been primarily a beer drinker since her early 20s, downing as much as four six-packs AND seven pint glasses (about 20 ounces each) a day. If just looking at her can’t convince you of the dangers of alcohol, here’s a rundown of the medical ailments that alcoholism can cause in the long run.
Alcohol abuse is the leading cause of liver disease in the United States, with over 2 million people suffering from alcoholic liver disease (ALD). There are three types of ALD: fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and cirrhosis. While the first is often reversible if the sufferer gives up alcohol, the latter two have a death rate of more than 60% within four years of diagnosis — most deaths occurring within one year.
Breakdown of Immune System
Excessive alcohol consumption can break down the immune system, leading to increased risk of infectious disease — particularly bacterial pneumonia, pulmonary tuberculosis and hepatitis C. Research is currently underway to determine if alcoholism can also increase chances of contracting HIV.
Alcohol abuse is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular ailments, such as cardiomyopathy (deterioration of heart muscle), heart attack, high blood pressure and arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythms).
Alcoholism can cause osteoporosis, a decrease in bone mass that makes bones more fragile and susceptible to breaking. Osteoporosis can also include severe back pain and spinal deformity.
Alcohol abuse has been shown to cause disorders of the nervous system, including dementia, strokes and neuropathy (nerve damage).
Studies have shown that the greater the amount of alcohol ingested, the greater the risk of various cancers, including cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon and breast.
Excessive alcohol use can cause gastrointestinal problems, such as pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach).
It should go without saying that pregnant women should not drink alcohol, as it can cause miscarriage and stillbirth, as well as physical and mental birth defects.
Alcoholics are susceptible to various psychiatric problems, such as depression, anxiety and suicide.
Of course, this isn’t even taking into consideration the short-term medical impact, like alcohol poisoning from binge drinking, contracting sexual diseases due to impaired judgement, and injuries from falling or from an auto accident while drunk driving. Sure, thinking about all of that is a buzz kill, but it might also save your life.
(Sources: The Mirror, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)