The side effects of alcoholism are very serious, and they are entirely preventable. In fact, alcoholism ranks among the top three causes of preventable deaths in the U.S. (after smoking and obesity).
The physical side effects of alcoholism are severe, but there are also significant psychological side effects. We’ll talk about both here.
The alcoholism side effects include a number of serious health problems.
Alcoholism often leads to malnutrition, which in turn leads to a host of other problems. The body requires a certain number of calories and certain nutrients in order to function properly. Organ damage can occur due to poor nutrition. In addition, malnutrition can cause depression and other psychological problems.
Alcoholism increases the risk of certain cancers, including esophageal cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer, and in women, breast cancer.
It can cause kidney disease and pancreatitis. It greatly increases the risk of heart disease. And, as is commonly known, it causes cirrhosis of the liver.
The more heavily a person drinks, and the longer amount of time they drink, the more likely they are to develop these disorders. Some conditions are reversible if a person stops drinking, but others are not.
Drinking during pregnancy can lead to a number of mental and physical side effects, including fetal alcohol syndrome, the leading cause of mental retardation in the U.S. In addition, children whose mothers drank while pregnant are more likely to have behavioral problems than children whose mothers abstained during pregnancy.
When a person does decide to quit drinking, they often go through a process of withdrawal. The physical side effects of withdrawal can include nausea, dizziness, and even seizures.
Any alcohol treatment program must account for these physical side effects of alcoholism.
There are numerous psychological side effects of alcoholism. These can be as devastating as the physical side effects.
Alcohol is a depressant. In addition to that, it damages relationships, interferes with work, and is generally disruptive to a happy and productive life. All of these things can lead to depression.
Alcoholism can also lead to anxiety, since it puts relationships and careers at risk. It often leads to legal problems, as well, which can produce anxiety. Alcoholics often feel anxious about their own alcohol use, although this may be expressed in odd ways. For instance, the alcoholic may become angry and defensive when questioned about their alcohol use.
Alcoholism side effects include social isolation. The alcoholic tends to avoid social situations where alcohol will not be served. As mentioned above, alcoholics also tend to get annoyed with people who question their drinking. Social isolation can lead to a number of issues, including depression and anxiety.
For an alcohol treatment program to be effective, it must treat all of the side effects caused by the disorder.
Treatment must begin with the physical side effects of withdrawal, which should be done under medical supervision. Any health problems caused by alcohol use must also be treated. Poor physical health makes it difficult to work on psychological issues, so medical care is a good place to start.
The psychological effects of alcoholism may be more difficult to treat. Individual counseling is recommended. Psychological complications of the disease can also be treated in group counseling sessions and in support groups.
Family members of alcoholics also suffer from the effects of alcoholism, so family counseling can be highly beneficial. Family members may also need to seek individual counseling and/or support groups for themselves as they cope with the effects the disease has wrought on their own lives.