It’s hard to believe a substance like alcohol, legal in all 50 states and accessible by anyone over the age of 21, is one of the most deadly substances on earth. Statistics released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 85.6 percent of people aged 18 or older drank at some point in their life. Another 69.5 percent reported drinking in the past year, and 54.9 percent admitted to drinking in the past month.
The same study found that 14.1 million adults over the age of 18 have an alcohol use disorder (AUD), including 8.9 million men and 5.2 million women. An estimated 414,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 also reported AUD. The study goes on to say that 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the country. In 2014, alcohol-related driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths.
Reports found that 39.7 percent of those between the ages of 12 and 20 reported having at least one drink in their life, while 4.2 million reported binge drinking in the past month. Nearly 825,000 young adults reported heavy alcohol use in the previous month.
Short-Term Health Risks of Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that cause an increase in various harmful conditions. These typically stem from binge drinking and include the following:
- Violence, including suicide, homicide, sexual assault, or intimate partner violence
- Injuries, such as falls, drownings, motor vehicle crashes, and burns
- Alcohol poisoning, which is a medical emergency from high blood alcohol levels
- Risky sexual behaviors, including sex with multiple partners or unprotected sex. It can result in a sexually transmitted disease like HIV or unintended pregnancy
- Stillbirth, miscarriages, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) in pregnant women
Long-Term Health Risks of Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases over time. It can lead to other severe health problems that include:
- Cancer of the mouth, breast, throat, liver, esophagus, and colon.
- Heart disease, blood pressure, liver disease, stroke, and digestive problems.
- Learning and memory problems, including poor school performance and dementia.
- Increased chances of getting sick – weakened immune system.
- Mental health issues, including anxiety or depression.
- Social issues, including family problems, lost productivity, and unemployment
- Alcohol use disorder, or dependence on alcohol
By not drinking too much, you will vastly reduce the chances of developing any short-term or long-term health risks.
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), alcohol use disorder is “a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse occupational, social, or health consequences.” The condition can range from mild to severe.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Teenage Brain?
When teens consume alcohol, it affects their brain in the short-term, and repeated drinking will also have impacts on the brain down the line as it develops and grows. Short-term consequences of being drunk include:
- A person has a greater risk of injuring themselves in a fall or vehicle crash.
- An intoxicated individual has a more difficult time making good decisions.
- Impaired motor coordination.
- The individual is less aware of their behavior that might be unsafe or inappropriate.
- The person is less likely to recognize danger.
- The individual is more likely to engage in unsafe behaviors, including aggressive or violent behavior, unsafe sexual behavior, or drinking and driving.
- Have adverse effects on information processing and learning
- Increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder later in life.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Body
When consuming alcohol, you might experience a sense of happiness, but don’t be fooled. As your blood alcohol levels rise, the effects on the body and risks multiply.
- Aggression, leading to verbal abuse or fights.
- Decision making skills are affected
- Memory becomes affected, so people might say or do things they regret and don’t remember, known as blacking out
What Is a Blackout?
A blackout is a gap in someone’s memory for events that occurred during intoxication. The gaps occur when someone drinks enough alcohol to temporarily block the transfer of memories from short-term to long-term storage, known as memory consolidation in the hippocampus.
Alcohol is the Most Abused Addictive Substance
As was mentioned above, the most frightening aspect of alcohol is that it’s everywhere. It’s widely accepted by different nationalities and cultures, and throughout the states, it’s seen as a way to unwind at the end of a long day and a recreational hobby. Alcohol is the most commonly abused addictive substance in the United States, and nearly one in 12 adults struggle with alcohol dependence.
Alcoholism is the Third Leading Preventable Cause of Death
As was mentioned above, alcohol causes a significant number of deaths nationwide, which are preventable. Consuming alcohol is deadly when combined with painkillers or firearms, and it may cause severe health conditions or diseases. Alcohol overdose or accidental death is entirely preventable.
Alcohol Changes the Permanently Changes the Brain
Although the human brain is powerful and can overcome many obstacles and encounters, it’s also susceptible to a substance use disorder. The brain adapts to its environment. For example, living in high altitudes can lead to sickness and headaches, but our bodies and mind adapt to the surrounding. In that same breath, alcohol abuse causes the brain to adjust to larger amounts over time. Alcohol can change the brain and nerve connection to handle more alcohol, and some of these changes can be permanent.
Alcohol and Youth Development
The brain is still developing well into your 20s, which is one reason alcohol consumption for the youth is dangerous. The body and brain are vulnerable to substance use, especially in significant amounts. Alcohol and other substances disrupt the natural process of mental and physical development. Alcohol consumption in youth causes memory problems, learning difficulties, and permanent brain damage.
Assault Numbers Are High
An estimated 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 have been assaulted by a drunk peer – and this is only the students who reported the assault. Many assaults go unreported, and nearly 50 percent of sexual assaults in college involve alcohol use.
Alcohol Worsens Depression and Anxiety
Although many people turn to alcohol to escape their depression or anxiety, they don’t realize it’s making their symptoms worse. Self-medication is not an adequate means of treating these conditions, and it could also lead to them adding another problem – alcohol use disorder. If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, you must see a licensed medical professional.
Alcohol Use Leads to Weight Gain
Alcohol abuse can lead to significant weight gain. One frozen margarita has the same number of calories as a burger. Although an occasional drink won’t lead to weight gain, an alcoholic needs more alcohol to keep them going over time. It leads to more drinks and even more calories. Binge drinking can also increase the risk of developing diabetes.
Drinking While Pregnant Will Lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Alcohol abuse affects more than those who drink – it can affect everyone around them. However, if they’re pregnant, it can affect the baby. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a condition that causes mental and physical disabilities in the child. It will cause them challenges at school and have a more challenging time holding down a job.
Alcohol Abuse Causes Cancer
As was mentioned above, alcohol in excess can lead to cancer. However, even in low amounts, a person exposes themselves to the risks. It accounts for six percent of cancers and four percent of cancer deaths annually.
Individuals Aged 12-20 Consume 11 Percent of All Alcohol In The United States
Nearly 90 percent of this consumption occurs from binge drinking, leading to problems at school, getting arrested, or an accident.
Alcohol Abuse Destroys Your Voice
Our voice is one of the most prominent and unique features, and it’s how people can identify us. Alcohol causes dehydration and will damage your vocal cord and larynx. It also irritates mucous membranes in the throat, and abusing the substance can damage your voice. It does more than impact your ability to sing, but it can alter a key part of your identity.