It is common to not think about alcohol in a negative light. Alcohol is consumed at home, in restaurants, bars, and at get-togethers. Drinking alcohol is very normalized, and you may not see it as a dangerous substance. Even binge-drinking behaviors are normalized, especially among younger people in college settings.
However, this behavior can be extremely dangerous and tends to stick well past college. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or drinking habitually can have very negative health effects.
Alcohol and Its Affect on Your Body
Drinking alcohol can have effects on different parts of your body. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that when it is consumed, it slows down your brain activity. This can affect your decision-making, mood, memory, and thinking.
The effect of alcohol use depends on many factors, such as age, weight, gender, race, and family history with alcohol use. Alcohol can also affect you differently if you are on certain medications. Alcohol use can also affect you differently depending on your mental health.
Drinking Can Make You Feel Worse
It is often thought that drinking can make you feel better. You may even choose to have a drink as a way to cope with difficult emotions. Despite this, drinking alcohol can actually make you feel worse. Many mental health disorders co-occur with alcohol use disorders because drinking is often used for self-medication.
Perhaps you drink to drown out unwanted symptoms from disorders like bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. However, drinking can worsen symptoms. For example, if you have bipolar disorder, drinking can increase the likelihood of suicide or worsen your symptoms long-term.
Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder
If you are not sure if your drinking has gotten out of hand, you should assess your drinking habits, how drinking makes you feel, and your behaviors connected to your drinking. If you find yourself consuming multiple drinks in one night, or drinking multiple times a week, then you have unhealthy drinking habits. Other symptoms to look out for include:
Drinking more than you intended to
Unsuccessfully cutting down on drinking
Spending a lot of time recovering from drinking
Drinking habits that interfere with your life
Experiencing cravings for alcohol
Continuing drinking habits despite effects on interpersonal relationships
Cutting back on activities to make time for drinking
Getting into dangerous situations because of drinking – e.g., unsafe sex or drunk driving
Continuing drinking despite negative psychological effects
Needing to drink more to get the same effects
Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal after quitting drinking, such as irritability, tremors, nausea, and sweating
Even if you do not have these symptoms, it does not hurt to cut back on drinking habits.
Why You Need to Quit Drinking
Drinking Can Lead to More Accidents
Since drinking slows down your brain, it also slows down your reaction time. This means that you are less able to react to unexpected changes. This is why it is extremely dangerous to drive while drunk. Those who drink are more likely to fall, get into car accidents, and run into things. Being drunk can also put others in danger.
Drinking Raises Chances of Severe Health Problems
Drinking, especially binge drinking and habitual drinking can increase your chances of many cancers, as well as liver, kidney, and heart disease. High alcohol use can also lead to higher blood pressure, weight gain, and wrinkly skin. Binge drinking can affect your brain, as well. It can cause you to lose your memory and affect both your working memory and long-term memory.
Drinking Can Cause You to Make Dangerous Choices
Depressants like alcohol can cause you to make impulsive decisions. When you drink, your ability to make judgments slows down. You might make a poor decision that you will regret later. Those who drink might get into fights they normally would not get into, practice unsafe sex, drunk drive, or say things they normally would not.
Drinking Can Affect the Quality of Your Sleep
When you drink alcohol, especially in large quantities, it can affect your ability to sleep well. You might think that having a drink or two before bed can make it easier to sleep. Drinking alcohol can actually make it harder for your brain to enter its REM cycle. The REM cycle is important for your brain to process memories and store information while you are asleep. The REM cycle is also when your body repairs tissues and strengthens your immune system.
Alcohol Is Bad for Relationships
If you drink excessively, it can negatively affect your relationships with your friends and family. Some people might be interested in spending time with you while you are under the influence, but others might not like being around you while you are drunk. You also might base your willingness to socialize on drinking, as some people drink to combat social anxiety. This does not improve your social life, but instead can limit it in a major way.
Alcohol Hurts Your Immune System
Drinking alcohol can negatively impact your immune system. You need your immune system in order to fight illnesses. Excessive alcohol use can increase the risk of pneumonia and intestinal illnesses. Additionally, it can slow down the closure of wounds, which can lead to more postoperative complications.
Don’t Quit Cold Turkey
If you have severe alcohol use disorder, quitting without detox can be extremely dangerous and even fatal. Severe withdrawal symptoms can include seizures and even death. If you or your loved one has alcohol use disorder or binge drinks, it is recommended that they enter a detox program and then addiction treatment.
Medically assisted detox is the safest method of quitting drinking because trained healthcare professionals can monitor your loved one's physical and mental withdrawal symptoms and help them if medical attention is needed.