Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol intoxication will produce many of the effects of alcohol abuse. Though the effects may vary between individuals, common reactions to alcohol consumption include:
- Slurred speech
- Problems walking steadily
- Poor memory and attention
- Mood changes
- Poor judgment
Many of these effects are dependent on the amount of alcohol consumed. Someone could have a desirable mood change after a drink or two, but undesirable mood changes with inappropriate or aggressive behaviors with additional drinks. As people continue drinking, they risk overwhelming their system with alcohol and experiencing alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol poisoning can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, call us immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help.
In the long term, addictions like alcohol use disorder make daily activities nearly impossible. A recent poll by The Recovery Village found physical health (61%), mental health (52%) and relationships (47%) are the most common negative impacts on daily life. In many cases, people will also struggle to maintain their jobs, parental responsibilities, housing, financial health and hygiene. Alcohol use can even threaten someone’s freedom due to legal issues. Left untreated, alcoholism can destroy everything the person has worked hard to achieve.
Outlook for Alcoholism
With its ability to negatively impact nearly every facet of mental and physical health, alcoholism can leave lingering effects on the individual. Fortunately, if a person can end their substance abuse, their body and brain can begin the recovery process.
Before the recovery, a person physically dependent on alcohol must experience a period of alcohol withdrawal. During this time, a person can expect a series of uncomfortable symptoms, like:
- Rapid heart rate
- Shakiness or tremors
- Anxiety or stress
- Mood swings
- Inability to sleep
- Nausea and vomiting
Many of these symptoms begin within a few hours following last use and generally last 2–8 days. Some symptoms, like anxiety and poor sleep, can last for six months or more. Though this may be discouraging, people in recovery from alcohol use can establish a happy and fulfilling life with time and patience.
How Addictive Is Alcohol?
Alcohol can be a highly addictive substance, especially when consumed in large amounts within a short period of time. Alcohol addiction develops in several stages. The process of addiction may begin with the first drink, with physical and mental factors that can escalate quickly.
Brain Chemistry During Alcohol Use
Like any other addictive drug, alcohol affects the brain’s chemistry. When a person drinks alcohol, the drug causes their brain to release the neurotransmitters, which are chemicals responsible for signaling (among other things) pleasure and reward. In the brain, alcohol increases the effects of neurotransmitters that slow the body down while also decreasing the effects of neurotransmitters that speed the body up. The combined effect results in many of the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
Once the effects of alcohol wear off, so does the feeling of happiness, pleasure and satisfaction caused by the neurotransmitters. A person can experience these feelings again if they drink alcohol again. After a period of continued alcohol abuse, it takes more substantial quantities of alcohol to achieve the same effect. This process is called tolerance and causes people to use higher amounts of alcohol over time to achieve the same level of intoxication.
Alcohol Dependence, or Physical Dependence
As alcohol use continues, the body and brain begin to adjust to the neurochemistry changes caused by the alcohol. This adjustment, called dependence, makes it necessary to have alcohol so the brain and body can function normally.
If alcohol use is stopped, someone who has been misusing alcohol and is dependent on it will experience withdrawal symptoms. During withdrawal, the brain has become so accustomed to alcohol that it has a volatile reaction when the drug is removed, causing headaches, vomiting, sweating, anxiety and other symptoms.
Alcohol Addiction, or Physical and Psychological Dependence
Alcohol addiction is marked by the obsessive desire to consume alcohol, regardless of the negative consequences. Dependence is a physical process, while addiction is a form of psychological dependence. At this point, the person engaging in alcohol abuse will likely experience many negative side effects from drinking — such as financial trouble or legal trouble — but cannot stop themselves from continuing to drink.