Long-term use or abuse of alcohol has been shown to have adverse health issues; however, reversing some effects of alcohol can be accomplished — this is only possible if the individual stays sober after recovery. Learn about how someone can reclaim their health after addiction.
Effects of Alcohol Abuse on the Brain and Body
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration (SAMHSA), alcohol use disorder is the most frequently occurring substance use disorder. The effects of this abuse can be long-lasting and include brain damage. It also includes:
- Inhibiting the functioning of every brain mechanism
- Association with damage to the neurons in all areas of the brain
- Alteration in the brain’s neural pathways
- Increased risk to develop neurological diseases and disorders like stroke, seizures, brain cancer, and dementia
- Cardiovascular issues
- Liver problems
Reversible Effects from Alcohol Abuse
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that individuals who quit drinking for several months to a year can expect some correction of these structures in the brain. Maintaining sobriety for 5-7 years is the peak time where reversible changes can occur. However, most change usually takes place in the first year. Any further damage due to alcohol abuse is retracted if one stops drinking. Still, many brain changes can’t be eliminated.
To determine how much functional and physiological impairment someone may continue to experience depends on the length of time, the substance used, family history and genetic factors, or other health factors like:
- Amount of exercise
- Dietary habits
- Presence of any co-occurring conditions
Wernicke-Korsakoff is one condition where an individual that excessively drinks can have problems with walking, nystagmus (uncontrollable repetitive eye movements), and cognitive issues like severe confusion and dense amnesia. Even though this condition isn’t directly related to alcohol use, it presents a lack of nutrition in those who neglected their diet due to alcohol abuse.
Thiamin (Vitamin B1) is usually most affected by the abuse, but when recognized early enough, can be reversed with supplementation and diet. If it’s chronic, the issue may not resolve, even with megadoses.
The American Heart Association (AHA) lists many cardiovascular problems tied to alcohol use and abuse. Even though there’s conflicting research about the heart benefits of drinking alcohol, the AHA suggests that despite some of these findings, people should not drink alcohol to help their cardiovascular health. Also, if there are any heart problems at all, a person should stop drinking or shouldn’t drink at all.
Some cardiovascular issues that are possible include:
- Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy
- High cholesterol levels
- Heart attack or sudden cardiac death
Cardiovascular issues from alcohol abuse may not be fully resolved, but like the same factors from neurological damage, some may be reversible. Again, changes usually occur within the first year, after abstaining, and then slow down. Individuals need to stay aware of their diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management to experience their complete potential for recovery.
Alcohol Liver Disease
Many studies have shown the excessive effects of alcohol use on the liver. Since the liver is the major organ for eliminating waste products and other toxic substances from the system, alcohol use can severely affect it since it’s metabolized before other substances. In turn, the liver has to work harder to perform its functions when a person drinks copious amounts of alcohol. Cirrhosis of the liver is one such condition that can cause severe liver damage. Usually, if this happens, the only way to reverse it is by a liver transplant.
Ulcers Caused By Alcohol Abuse
Gastritis is when inflammation occurs in the gastrointestinal tract, which, if allowed to continue, can cause ulcers to develop. When someone stops drinking and gets treatment, the condition can resolve, but some scar tissue can be left behind.
A person’s bones decrease in density and become more brittle and prone to breaking with osteoporosis. Although it typically occurs in older individuals, and women, in particular, it can be accelerated by the use of drinking. Getting treatment for the condition can stop the damage after someone stops drinking; however, those with severe osteoporosis will most likely not reverse all the damage.
Stop the Cycle of Alcohol Addiction
Drinking can cause many brain and body changes, but it’s not too late to reverse some of the damage by stopping the addiction. Contact Ardu Recovery Center to learn how we can help with care and support of recovery.