Alcoholism and Death

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  August 27 ,
| 4 Sources

Alcoholism is a serious issue in today's society. Alcoholism and death go hand in hand, it has been shown that more than one million people die each year as a result of alcohol-related causes. Alcohol addiction is often called "a progressive disease" because the longer someone drinks, the worse their condition becomes.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is when an individual becomes dependent on alcohol and drinks it in large amounts over a long period of time. Alcoholism can affect the drinker's mental health, physical health, job/school life, family life and their relationships with other people who are close to them (e.g. spouse, children etc.).

Alcoholism can destroy lives. Alcohol is an addictive substance. Just one drink can put an alcohol abuser on the path to being addicted. The individual may not notice any problems when drinking occasionally, but if they have three or more drinks in a night several nights a week, their body will become dependent on alcohol and physically withdraw from it.

When that happens, they develop alcoholism as their bodies need more alcohol each day to feel "normal." It doesn't take long for someone's life to be taken over by alcoholism. At that point, the person becomes desperate for another drink even though he or she knows they are ruining their health and relationships with their family and friends.

They continue this behavior because the addiction controls them. Ultimately, most who suffer from alcoholism lose everything dear to them.

What Kills Heavy Drinkers?

In the area of alcoholism and death, liver disease is one of the most common ways people succumb. While it is true that this is not the only fatal cause associated with excessive drinking, it is one of the more prevalent, especially for those who have been drinking for a long time. Alcoholism effects on body organs can be pervasive, but the liver, especially, is subject to major damage.

This is due to the fact that this organ serves so many vital functions. It filters toxins from the body, it regulates blood flow and carbohydrate and fat metabolism in addition to its roles in digestion.

The liver also has a high concentration of hepatic microsomal enzymes. These are used by the liver to activate certain substances such as alcohol. Certain toxic (poisonous) compounds may be created when these enzymes act on alcohol which can then lead to other problems and eventually death if left untreated.

Alcoholism has been shown to harm all those organs mentioned above by decreasing their functional capacity over time, consequently leading to organ failure-typically due to cirrhosis of the liver or pancreatic failure.

Three Types of Liver Disease

There are three types of liver disease that are related to excessive alcohol consumption. These processes often move from one to the next and are a main cause of alcoholism and death:

  1. Fatty Liver Disease: This disease occurs when there is an increase of fat cells within the liver. Often there are no symptoms felt by the person who has this problem. This disease process occurs in almost all of those who drink a lot. Once the drinking stops, the condition will usually improve on its own.
  2. Hepatitis: Alcoholic hepatitis is basically an inflammation of the liver. This is a fairly common condition for those who drink heavily. Generally the symptoms of this process include loss of appetite, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain and tenderness, high fever, and jaundice.

    This disease can be progressive, and the alcoholism effects on body organs, especially the liver, can be life threatening if left untreated for too long.
  3. Alcoholic Cirrhosis: This is the most serious type of alcohol related liver disease. The word cirrhosis simply means normal tissue is being replaced with unhealthy scar tissue. It will normally take ten years or more of heavy drinking before this condition presents itself. 

It has been estimated that somewhere between ten and twenty percent of heavy drinkers will, at some time, develop cirrhosis. Unlike the above alcoholism effects on body organs, the damage from cirrhosis is not reversible.

Cirrhosis is one of the major links between alcoholism and death. Because of its severity this health problem needs to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Diagnosis of Liver Problems

There are many tests available but, in general, blood tests and imaging tests (CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound) are most often performed in order to make a diagnosis. A liver biopsy may also be called for as this is the best means of establishing a solid diagnosis.



Because of the severe link between alcoholism and death, the person must stop drinking before treatments will be of any use. For some patients, changes in diet as well as vitamin supplements will be very useful in treating the alcoholism effects on body organs. Diet and vitamin supplements can go a long way in helping the liver recover.

Certain medications may be needed in order to better manage any complications that may have been caused by liver damage. For some, the only treatment option may be a liver transplant.

Another treatment option that is very important is participating in either a group support system, an alcohol recovery program or a treatment center. The importance of these treatment options cannot be discounted as staying sober is crucial to the liver's recovery.

The longer the person remains sober, the better the chance for a healthy liver. Abstinence from alcohol can help to restore lost function within seven years or less in most cases.

For anyone with advanced liver disease, the link between his or her continued alcoholism and death must be assessed. There is no easy to say it, continued drinking can kill you. Once the alcoholism effects on body organs begins to progress, treatment becomes much more difficult and the prognosis becomes less satisfactory.

The first step is to stop drinking immediately as this is vital to any hope of extending your life span. Those who continue to drink after developing liver disease are more likely to suffer a variety of life-threatening health issues.

Stop Alcoholism Before It Gets Deadly

Alcoholism can cause life-threatening diseases. If you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol abuse, it is vital to get help today. Contact a treatment provider today and let the experts help you in stopping your drinking so that you can better enjoy life.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

More than alcoholism and death on our alcoholism stages page

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