Even when alcohol is consumed in moderation, it wreaks havoc on our minds and body over time. So why do people continue their long-term relationship with alcohol? Since the pandemic, we have seen an acceleration and progression in alcohol use and abuse, here Lee Hawker-Lecesne, Lead Therapist and Addiction Counsellor at The Cabin looks at the differences and dangers between social drinking, alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
There are three main categories that users of alcohol fall into social drinkers, alcohol abusers or alcoholics. Most people who drink alcohol will not have any problems with their consumption; however, for those who do have a problem handling it, oftentimes, their problem will gradually worsen.
From social drinkers to alcohol abusers and then to alcoholics, each type of drinker is different. Most people will remain either completely abstinent or remain social drinkers, but those who do end up becoming alcohol abusers or alcoholics must understand how harmful and even deadly their consumption can be.
With alcohol being readily available across most of the world, Its popularity and cultural significance can often mask its true identity – a highly addictive and toxic drug with devastating long-term effects, diseases, and disorders. In large doses over prolonged periods of time, alcohol can be severely detrimental to a person’s mind, physical state, and quality of life.
Once ingested, the body processes alcohol quickly and sends it to the brain where it stimulates the production of dopamine, a chemical associated with the desire and reward area of the brain. Endorphins are also released which tell the brain that alcohol is good. All this can occur within the first 10 minutes of consumption and one drink can lead to another and then another. The next day begins with a hangover and promises to never drink again, but there’s a twist. The brain now thinks of alcohol as a ‘reward’ and so eventually, you will most likely reach for more. Every time you drink, you may be training your brain to want more the next time and so, a vicious cycle begins. Avoiding further descent into this cycle is the best thing you can do to avoid serious, long-term damage to your body and mind.
Alcohol and Long-Term Damage to the Brain
Even small amounts of alcohol affect our emotions, judgement, memory, speech, and anger levels. Excessive drinking and long-term consumption can kill brain cells. Drinking affects both the frontal cortex, which is used for planning, forming ideas, and making decisions and the hippocampus, which stores our memories. Once the hippocampus is damaged, you may experience difficulty learning new things and retaining new long-term memories. Prolonged consumption of alcohol causes the brain to shrink, resulting in difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions. This contracting of the brain further causes confusion and irritation.
Alcohol is carried by the blood and travels throughout your body to your organs. Each organ is necessary for life and any deterioration can alter its function and health. Long-term use of alcohol ravages your most vital organs, particularly the heart, liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
Long-term alcohol use is toxic to nerve tissue and causes nerve damage. Nerves transmit signals between the brain and the body, and when this system is damaged over time, symptoms will appear. This damage can also be attributed to nutritional problems linked to alcohol such as vitamin deficiency and malnutrition. It is heartbreaking to know that alcohol-induced nerve damage is often permanent.
It is important for someone who has addiction issues to get help, reclaim their lives and get out of the vicious cycle of addiction. The sooner you or your loved one gets help, the better their chances are of recovery which is why it’s important to seek help at the very first signs of addiction. The Cabin Chiang Mai has helped thousands of people break free from alcohol dependence and addiction.