Alcohol can seem quite harmless at first. It’s served at a majority of social gatherings. It seems people drink one or two and there is little, if no, effect. There are dozens of ads, billboards, and commercials about alcohol that bombard us every day, it might seem that there is nothing wrong with alcohol at all.

Yet, it’s effects on the body can be severe if drinking becomes excessive. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse, men should avoid drinking no more than 4 drinks in a day or no more than 14 drinks per week. Women should avoid drinking no more than 3 drinks in a day or no more than 7 drinks per week.

However, drinking alcohol can be a pleasurable experience. This combined with the fact that society welcomes and encourages drinking, it’s easy for an individual to choose to drink on a regular basis, which might eventually lead to alcoholism. And if an addiction does develop, the illness of addiction can progressively get worse and worse.

With the illness of alcoholism there comes some severe effects on the body. When an individual has a glass of wine or a pint of beer, the alcohol enters the bloodstream quickly. Depending on whether there is food in the stomach or not, the body will absorb the alcohol more or less quickly. For instance, foods that are high in carbohydrates and fats can make the user’s body absorb alcohol more slowly. During this time, an individual begins to feel the effects of alcohol, such as numbness, slurred speech, slowed reactions, and a loose mood. In time, the alcohol leaves the body through the breath, perspiration, and urine. The amount of alcohol that doesn’t leave the body through these methods is metabolized by the liver.

However, with excessive drinking the liver is at risk for being damaged. One of the most common illnesses of alcoholism is disease of the liver, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis. The liver is an organ that filters toxins from the blood stream, including alcohol. However, with too much alcohol in the body, the liver has a hard time keeping itself healthy. The liver simply cannot keep up. Because of this, an inflammation of the liver develops, also known as alcohol hepatitis. There are approximately over 2 million Americans who suffer from alcohol hepatitis.

If this illness is not cared for and someone continues to drink, the liver can become permanently damaged. This is known as cirrhosis, which is a progressive and permanent type of degeneration of liver tissue. One of the signs of cirrhosis is that the liver has begun to develop scar tissue. Other more visible signs of cirrhosis include:

–Reduced appetite

–Weight loss

–Nausea and vomiting

–Pain especially in the left side of the abdomen

–Yellow skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)

–Swollen abdomen due to fluid accumulation

–Changes in your mental state, behavior, personality, and in severe cases, coma.

Despite these severe signs, cirrhosis is an illness that can be treated. In time, many people can go on to live normal lives. In fact, even if 30% of the liver is damaged, someone can still go on to live their lives as usual. The liver is a large organ that even if a portion of it contains scar tissue, it won’t affect someone’s way of life – as long as drinking comes to an end. Typically, a doctor will conduct an ultrasound on your liver to determine the percentage of the organ that has been damaged. With this information, treatment plan is recommended.

It’s important to know that alcoholism is a severe illness in and of itself. The addiction must be treated along with any other physical illnesses that develop as a result. In addition to damage to the liver, excessive drinking can also cause nerve damage and lead to alcoholic neuropathy. Drinking can also contribute to high blood pressure, cancer, and certain psychological illnesses.

If you or someone you know is drinking excessively, it’s crucial to consult with a physician and a mental health professional right away.

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