How Alcoholism Develops

Many of us have a drink with dinner, or a few when going out with friends or at family gatherings.  But for some people, the occasional drink is not occasional at all, but habitual and excessive.  Alcoholism is a disease where the body becomes physically addicted or dependent on alcohol. For many alcoholics, as with other substance abuse disorders, drinking becomes a compulsion rather than a choice.  This means alcoholics continue to drink despite the deleterious effects on personal relationships, everyday life and overall health.  Many suffering from alcoholism may not even recognize that they have it, and can’t recognize the symptoms that they display.  About 8% of Americans are diagnosed as alcoholics. 


Some signs of alcoholism are high tolerance for large amounts of alcohol, drinking alone, being unable to control your drinking habits, and feelings of sickness or withdrawal without alcohol.  Regular, and/or excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to symptoms like:

·         Numbness or a painful feeling in your arms or legs

·         Erectile dysfunction 

·         Leaking urine

·         Urine retention

·         Bleeding from the stomach or esophagus 

·         Swelling and damage to the pancreas

·         Damage to the liver

·         Nutritional deficiencies

Over time, the above symptoms worsen and lead to serious health conditions.  Some of the major risks posed to your health are several types of cancer, liver disease, heart disease and depression.  Let’s evaluate how alcohol can damage your body:

1.       Cancer: Excessive amounts of alcohol have been linked to mouth, esophageal, liver, breast and colon cancer. The risk of cancer increases because the body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, a potent carcinogen.

2.       (Especially) Liver Cancer: If an individual consumes 3 or more alcoholic drinks per day, they are at high risk for developing liver cancer.  This is important at liver cancer kills 746,000 people globally per year.

3.       Liver Cirrhosis: Alcohol abuse can lead to inflammation and scarring of the liver tissue. This condition can become lethal when   the liver is so heavily scarred that it is unable to function.

4.       Anemia: Lowers red blood cell count

5.       Heart Disease: Heavy drinking, especially bingeing, makes platelets more likely to clump together into blood clots, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.

6.       Pancreatitis: Drinking inflames the pancreas, causing this condition.  Chronic pancreatitis interferes with the digestive process, causes severe abdominal pain and persistent diarrhea.

7.       Dementia: Alcohol abuse can speed up this process of age-related brain shrinking.  This results in marked memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.

8.       Depression: Studies have shown that heavy drinking can lead to depression and that depression can likewise lead to heavy drinking.  

9.       Gout: Alcohol abuse can aggravate existing joint pain, and worsen cases of gout which affects the joints.

10.   Seizures: Heavy drinking can trigger seizures and be a cause of epilepsy.

11.   Nerve Damage: Heavy drinking can cause a form of nerve damage known as alcoholic neuropathy.  This condition produces pain and numbness in the muscles, can cause erectile dysfunction, incontinence and constipation.

12.   Infection:  Excessive amounts of alcohol can weaken the immune system, leaving the body most susceptible to infection.