Early-Stage Alcoholism (Heavy Drinking)
One of the main issues with alcoholism is how easy it becomes to lie to yourself. If you’re in this phase, you’ll often downplay the amount you drink and find ways of explaining away the behaviour, when people inevitably start to notice. You may start to experience consequences at work or school due to your habit and find yourself regularly hungover and craving more alcohol.
Signs such as drinking at work, while looking after children or when driving are indicators of this stage. You’ve likely become more irritable, and alcohol may start to affect you differently. You’ll need to drink more to achieve the same effects you used to feel and often pass out from alcohol. Changes in your body such as facial redness, stomach bloating, shaking, sweating and memory lapses start to affect you.
As alcoholism progresses, the cells in the body become more and more resistant to the short-term effects of alcohol. As a person continues drinking excessively, the cells will continue to adapt. Eventually, the presence of alcohol becomes the norm for the body, and the long-term damage continues.
End-stage alcoholism typically presents several health complications. First, the liver becomes damaged, possibly permanently. The liver gains fats and inflammation, eventually leading to liver scarring. The result of the damage is often liver disease or cirrhosis.
The damaged liver can cause other complications in the body since it is a vital organ. The liver is responsible for over 500 tasks to ensure the body is functioning as healthy as possible. Other health complications, like heart problems and stroke, stem from chronic alcohol abuse in end-stage alcoholism. Risks of dementia and cancer increase. Even brain damage and hepatitis can occur in end-stage alcoholics.
- Co-occurring mental health disorders: People with alcoholism are more likely to also have other mental health disorders, like depression or anxiety. More than half of all heavy drinkers report drinking impacting their mental health (53%). Treating addiction and any co-occurring mental health issues simultaneously, called dual diagnosis, is often necessary to support long-term recovery.
- Relationship problems: After years of centring their life around alcohol, a person’s relationships can suffer. They may struggle with isolation and impaired social skills. In a recent study, 52% of heavy drinkers reported alcohol-related impacts on their relationships.
- Blackouts and memory loss: Prolonged heavy drinking can also lead to blackouts and memory loss, which can interfere with relationships and work life. One in every three heavy drinkers reports alcohol had a significant negative impact on their career or job.
- Malnutrition: When a person consumes most of their calories in the form of alcohol rather than nutritious food, malnutrition may develop. Alcohol can also interfere with the absorption of nutrients in the food they do eat.
- Immune system: A person’s immune system can be weakened over time, making them more vulnerable to illnesses. Among heavy drinkers, 18% reported a weakened immune system. They were 61% more likely to have the problem than light or moderate drinkers.
- Liver disease: After years of processing excessive amounts of alcohol, the liver may be damaged beyond recovery. In a liver disease called cirrhosis, scar tissue eventually replaces healthy tissue, interfering with its ability to function. Among heavy drinkers, 23% reported having liver disease, and 16% reported cirrhosis. People who drank heavily doubled their risk of having liver problems versus those who didn’t.
- Heart disease: Heavy drinking can cause long-term damage to the heart muscle, leading to a higher risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke. In a recent survey, 40% of heavy drinkers reported high blood pressure. They’d doubled their risk compared to light or moderate drinkers.
- Nerve damage: Alcoholic neuropathy is long-term nerve damage resulting from chronic heavy drinking, and 16% of heavy drinkers report this health issue to some extent. This can lead to numbness, pain, muscle problems, unsteady walking and problems urinating.
Getting Help To Stop Heavy Drinking
It is possible to recover at any stage of alcoholism! 59% of people successfully completed alcohol treatment in 2019/20. You can reach out to start treatment by DMing us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram; by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning us on 01795 431751.