The effects of alcoholism on an addict's life are profound. When most people think of an alcoholic, they see a lonely man who has lost his job and is drowning his sorrows at a local bar. In some situations, this may be true. However, there are deeper and much more intricate problems associated with alcoholism. Not only do severe physical problems face an alcoholic, but mental and social anguish can torment the addict as well.
While there have been recent studies discussing the positive effects of consuming a small amount of alcohol, it is important to remember that alcoholism is a serious addiction and a devastating disease.
Short Term Effects of Problem Drinking
Before discussing the long term effects of alcoholism, it is important to know the short term effects. Just because a person is not a true alcoholic does not mean they have escaped the negative consequences of imbibing too much. Although doctors have given an okay for a small amount of alcohol to be drunk for health reasons, anything more than the recommended dose (usually cited between 3-5 glasses of wine a week) is reason for concern. Short term effects of alcohol use and abuse include:
- Dizziness or difficulty walking
- Becoming talkative
- Slurred speech
- Nausea or vomiting
- Impaired judgment
- Flushed skin and a feeling of warmth
- Engaging in risky sexual behavior that may lead to sexually transmitted diseases
- Reduction in coordination
- Aggressive actions such as fighting, and domestic or child abuse
- Weight problems
Physical Effects of Long-Term Alcohol Abuse
The physical ailments an alcoholic may expect to experience include:
- Pancreas problems
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Blackouts and hallucinations
- Impaired thinking and judgment
- Changes in mood and behavior
- Memory lapses
- Severe anxiety
- Cancers of the liver, mouth, or esophagus
- High blood pressure
- High risk of heart attack and stroke
- Minimized erectile function or impotence
- Severe and life threatening reactions with other medications or drugs
- Alcohol-induced coma
In addition to the problems listed above, household accidents rise with excessive alcohol abuse. Car accidents are one of the effects of alcoholism as well. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 17,000 people are killed in alcohol-related car accidents each year. About 250,000 more people are injured.
Pregnant women and their unborn children face additional physical problems as the result of alcoholism. Women who are alcoholics risk giving birth to children with birth defects, mental retardation, or serious learning problems. These children may also be born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which causes learning and behavior problems as well as defects in facial features.
Social and Personal Effects of Alcoholism
Alcoholism cannot only ruin a person's health, but their personal life as well. Persons with alcoholism may find the following problems in their lives:
- Divorce or other martial problems
- Child abuse or neglect
- Damaged social relationships
- Scholastic problems
- Work-related problems
- Financial problems
If you or someone you know is an alcoholic, please seek help before these problems become life-threatening. Staging an intervention, joining Alcoholics Anonymous, or starting a rehabilitation program and beginning recovery will help the alcoholic and his/her loved ones cope with the disease.For an overview of alcoholism and how it affects the user and those around that person, visit LTK's informative slideshow Alcoholism Stages.