Alcohol Abuse Affecting the Liver
The liver suffers the most when you abuse alcohol.
Save your liver before it’s too late.
Be informed on how alcohol affects your liver.
It is a well-known fact that frequent alcohol abuse can lead to long term liver damage. It is also generally understood that abstaining from alcohol can help reverse some of its adverse effects. To fully understand the dangers of alcohol abuse, it is important to discuss the relationship between drinking and one of the most important organs in the body: the liver.
Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to a variety of health risks, ranging from high blood pressure to stroke. People are most familiar with alcohol’s negative effects on the liver. Heavy drinkers are at risk of liver failure, liver cirrhosis, jaundice, and liver cancer.
Heavy drinking is defined as having eight drinks or more per week for women, and 15 or more for men. Binge drinking even once can result in significant organ damage, bodily impairment, or even death.
Fortunately, inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for alcohol addiction can make quitting easier.
Alcohol’s Effect on the Liver
The liver is responsible for breaking down and filtering out harmful substances in the blood. It also manufactures proteins, enzymes, and hormones, which the body uses to ward off infections. It also converts medicines, vitamins, and nutrients into substances that the body can use.
The liver is also in charge of producing bile for digestion, cleaning blood, and storing glycogen for energy.
When a person consumes alcohol, the liver processes 90 percent of it. The rest exits the body via urine, sweat, and breathing. It takes approximately an hour for the body to process one alcoholic beverage. However, this time frame increases with each drink. The liver can only process a limited amount of alcohol at a time, which means a person who drinks too much will have unprocessed alcohol circulating through their bloodstream.
The alcohol in the blood starts affecting other organs such as the heart and the brain. This is why people become intoxicated. Long term alcohol abuse causes destruction of liver cells, which results in scarring of the liver, also known as liver cirrhosis. It may also cause alcoholic hepatitis or even liver cancer. These conditions usually progress from fatty liver to alcoholic hepatitis to cirrhosis. It is possible for heavy drinkers to develop cirrhosis without first developing hepatitis.
According to the University Health Network, a safe amount of alcohol depends on a person’s body weight, size, and gender. Women absorb more alcohol from each drink in comparison to men, which means they are at greater risk of liver damage.
If a person consumes 2 to 3 alcoholic drinks daily, it can easily harm their liver. Furthermore, binge drinking can also result in liver damage. Another bad habit is mixing alcohol with medications—which can be deadly. Certain medications such as acetaminophen can lead to severe damage to the liver if taken with alcohol. Alcohol should not be combined with antibiotics, pain medications, sedatives, antidepressants, blood thinners, and muscle relaxants.
Symptoms of Liver Disease
Heavy drinkers are at a higher risk of developing a wide range of liver diseases, compared to moderate drinkers. In fact, as many as 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease can be reversed with abstinence. Similarly, alcoholic hepatitis is also typically reversible with abstinence.
Common symptoms of liver disease include: nausea, vomiting, itchy skin, swelling in legs and ankles, jaundice, abdominal pain and swelling, dark urine, discolored stool, chronic fatigue, fever, disorientation, weakness, and loss of appetite.
Liver disease caused by alcohol is avoidable. Moderate alcohol consumption is usually described as one drink per day for women and two for men. There is no type of alcoholic beverage that is considered safer than the others when it comes to liver health.
Treatment for Liver Disease and Alcoholism
Abstinence helps patients struggling with liver cirrhosis, however, other complications such as kidney failure or hypertension can be difficult to deal with. Some people stabilize with abstinence, while others don’t. In any case, proper medical treatment will go a long way.
If someone in the family is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, it is important to seek help. A combination of medical detox and behavioral therapy can go a long way in the fight against substance abuse. But because every individual is affected by addiction differently, a comprehensive program tailored to their specific needs is necessary. Look for a nearby addiction treatment facility today and find out how drug treatment programs work.
Rehab is Your Best Chance
Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.