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Long Term Effects of Alcohol on the Liver

Long Term Effects of Alcohol on the Liver Resurgence Behavioral Health

Long Term Effects of Alcohol, Liver Damage

Heavy alcohol use is widely recognized for its dire effects on both body and mind, spanning from elevated blood pressure to stroke, and contributing to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. One of the most notorious health impacts is on the liver, with heavy alcohol use escalating the risk of cirrhosis, liver failure, jaundice, liver cancer, and more.

When individuals attempt to curtail or cease their alcohol consumption, particularly after prolonged periods of heavy use, they may face a risk of transfer addiction. This happens when, in the quest to manage the difficulties of withdrawing from one substance, a person unconsciously adopts another addictive behavior. This underscores the importance of a comprehensive and considerate support system during the recovery and detoxification phases to navigate through these potential challenges and ensure a balanced approach towards holistic health and wellbeing.

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks a week for women and 15 or more for men. Even a single binge-drinking episode can cause bodily impairment or death.

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How Heavy Drinking Affects The Liver

The liver’s job is mainly to break down and filter substances in the blood. It also makes enzymes, proteins, and hormones that protect against infections. The liver also converts nutrients, medicines, and vitamins into substances the body can use. It is also responsible for producing bile for digestion, storing glycogen for energy, and cleaning our blood.

The liver is instrumental in processing the majority of consumed alcohol, with over 90% being processed and the remaining exiting the body through urine, perspiration, and respiration. A standard unit of alcohol typically takes an hour to process, a timeline that extends with each subsequent drink, elevating the blood alcohol content and prolonging the alcohol processing duration. When alcohol intake surpasses the liver’s filtering capacity, it remains circulating within the bloodstream, impacting vital organs like the heart and brain, leading to the sensation of intoxication. Chronic alcohol misuse can lead to the deterioration of liver cells, causing conditions like cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis, and cellular mutations, potentially leading to liver cancer, evolving from fatty liver to alcoholic hepatitis to cirrhosis.

Just as chronic alcohol abuse can lead to severe health conditions, discontinuing Zoloft abruptly after prolonged use can lead to Zoloft withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal process can be tough, similarly to the way chronic alcohol abuse affects the body over time, emphasizing the importance of seeking medical advice when considering weaning off Zoloft or addressing alcohol-related health issues.

A safe amount of alcohol depends on a person’s size, weight, and sex. Women will absorb more alcohol than males, making them at a higher risk for liver damage. Daily alcohol use of 2 to 3 drinks or binge drinking (drinking 4 to 5 drinks in a row) can result in liver damage.

Mixing alcohol with medications can also increase liver damage. For example, taking Acetaminophen with alcohol can lead to severe damage to your liver. Antibiotics, sedatives, antidepressants, and painkillers can all be dangerous when combined with alcohol.

What is Liver Disease?

“Liver disease” refers to several conditions that affect and damage the liver. Long-term effects of alcohol on the liver can be devastating. Over time, liver disease will lead to cirrhosis and as more scar tissue develops, the liver can no longer function properly. When left untreated, liver disease will lead to liver failure and liver cancer. Overall, about 1 in 10 Americans have some type of liver disease.

Symptoms of Liver Damage

20% of heavy drinkers will develop fatty liver disease, which is typically reversible with abstinence. Alcohol hepatitis can then lead to cirrhosis which is a failure, but both are also reversible. Those consuming 2 or more drinks daily put themselves at risk of liver disease. Symptoms include:

  • Leg and ankle swelling
  • Yellowing of eyes and skin, known as jaundice
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Easily bruises
  • Itchy skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Discolored, pale, bloody, or tar-colored stool
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fever
  • Disorientation
  • Weakness

Even though there is not a type of alcoholic beverage that is safe for the liver, liver disease is avoidable by limiting drinking to 1 drink a day for women and 2 for men.

Repairing The Liver After Alcohol

The best way to repair the liver after alcohol use is to abstain from drinking. The sooner the person stops drinking, the better their body will be in the long run. Some of the things you can do to repair liver damage include:

  1. Stop Drinking. If you are noticing some of the symptoms of liver disease or have seen a physician who says you have an unhealthy liver, you need to stop drinking.
  2. Healthy Lifestyle Changes. Stopping smoking and maintaining healthy weight is important. Obesity is the second leading cause of liver disease, while cigarettes worsen liver damage because of the toxins it contains
  3. Exercise. Not only does it help to prevent and treat obesity, it can help the liver as well. Regular exercise helps improve the immune system and reduces the risk of liver cancer.
  4. Nutrition. Reducing the amount of processed foods, sugars, and saturated fats reduces the amount of substances the liver needs to filter out, which helps it to not work so hard. Healthy diet leads to a healthy liver.
  5. Consider the Medications You Are Taking. Medications can be harmful to the liver, including over the counter ones like acetaminophen.
  6. Avoid Unnecessary Toxins. Avoiding other toxic substances such as illicit drugs or abusing prescription drugs can help heal the liver. Other ways to avoid other toxic substances is by using a mask when dealing with toxic sprays like paints, insecticides, aerosol, fungicides, and other sprayed chemicals. Avoid chemicals that can come in contact with your skin by wearing gloves or quickly washing an area that comes in contact with chemicals.

Treating Alcoholism

Heavy alcohol use can lead to alcoholism, which is a physical and mental dependence on alcohol. Alcohol abuse can cause physical changes to the brain which creates dependence. After chronic alcohol use, the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of alcohol and when you suddenly stop or greatly reduce the amount, your brain does not know how to function without it. This causes withdrawal symptoms which can make quitting alcohol much harder.

Struggling with alcohol use disorder, you may feel as though there is no end in sight. But you do not need to suffer alone and there is much rehabilitation that can help you overcome addiction successfully. Treating alcoholism is a long process and a chronic disorder. Many people relapse after addiction treatment, so it is important to know that you did not fail, just had a setback, and just need to get back into your sobriety.

Treatment of alcohol starts with detox, to help get the substance fully out of your system. After, you will need to enter an alcohol abuse recovery program which can include an inpatient or outpatient rehab program. Inpatient rehab will give you the greatest chance for long-term sobriety. It is important to enter a program like this for severe forms of alcoholism, which require patients to remain on-site 24/7 for the duration of their program. Programs can last for 30, 60, or 90 days. You will receive around-the-clock care and help prepare you to integrate sober living back into outside life. A treatment center will use various forms for the group, family, and individual therapy, along with ways to overcome triggers, and may even integrate holistic treatments such as acupuncture, exercise, and nutrition.

Alcohol Detox

Many people struggle with quitting drinking because of the withdrawal symptoms, which can range from mild to life-threatening. Many will not make it through the detox process on their own because the withdrawal symptoms are so bad, they will easily relapse. Using a medical detox can help ensure safety and comfort while going through the withdrawal process. It can also greatly increase the likelihood of completing detox.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, nausea, sweating, headaches, and insomnia. More severe symptoms include tremors, disorientation, extreme hallucinations, and in rare cases delirium tremens, which can be life-threatening. The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on how long and severe the alcohol use disorder is.

Going through an alcohol detox program, medical professionals can administer medications to help the withdrawal symptoms as well as reduce cravings. Because symptoms can be so severe, medical detox is recommended.  This is especially true for those with a history of heart or lung disease or other medical conditions. Physicians and nurses can track your heart rate and blood pressure to make sure the condition does not worsen and administer medications if needed.

Alcohol detox Costa Mesa can last from one to two weeks. Withdrawal symptoms will begin as early as two hours after your last drink. The worst of the symptoms usually subside after one week, but people can experience mild symptoms for several weeks to a year after.

Resurgence Behavioral Health Alcohol Rehab

Long-term effects of alcohol use can lead to many health issues, including liver damage. The sooner you get help for your alcohol use disorder, the more likely you can avoid long-term effects and reverse liver damage. At Resurgence Behavioral Health, we help treat every level of alcoholism, no matter the severity. An assessment with your healthcare provider can help recommend the best course of treatment.

We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs for alcohol use disorder. Every program is tailored to every patient to give them the best chance of long-term sobriety, including treating co-occurring disorders. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism and liver damage, Resurgence Behavioral Health can help you with addiction. Please give us a call today to talk to one of our addiction specialists who are happy to guide you into one of our treatment programs and answer any questions you may have.

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