The affects that alcohol have on the body are consistently predictable regardless of the use pattern. Alcohol is a mood altering depressant drug. The reason that alcohol can cause such extensive damage to the body because it can go everywhere. There is no body cell resistant to alcohol. The first stop is the stomach, where without food, alcohol is absorbed directly into the blood stream. Food will actually slow the absorption of alcohol as will fruit juice and water. Vomiting, one of the bodys defenses against an alcohol overdose, and is caused when you drink too much.
Alcohol moves quickly to the brain and passes the blood-brain barrier, which normally keeps harmful substances away from the brain. In the brain, alcohol affects the neurons, causing judgement problems, coordination problems, and a host of other problem.
Once in the blood stream, alcohol goes to the liver for detoxification, or break down, by the alcohol-attacking enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase. Eventually, the alcohol is broken down and excreted from the body.
Your Appearance - If you want to have clear skin and bright eyes, dont drink alcohol. According to researchers, more than one or two drinks a week promote aging. Alcohol is considered a food with non-nutritional calories that quickly add up. When you abuse alcohol, you tend to be undernourished, making your hair dry, giving you cracked lips, aggravating acne, making your eyes look glassy, and giving your skin a puffy, broken vein look.
Your Brain - Alcohol is a depressant that slows brain activity down. While one or two drinks makes most people feel relaxed, more alcohol may cause feelings of anxiety, depression, and often aggression. Alcohols first effect as it reaches the outer brain is to distort your judgement and lower you inhibition, while producing euphoria (a sense of pleasure). As you consume more alcohol, and it reaches the cerebellum, your coordination and perception are affected, and you can have memory blackouts. As the alcohol reaches your mid-brain, reflexes diminish, you experience confusion, stupor, and may lapse into a coma. Once the alcohol finally reaches the medulla, or inner core of the brain, your heart rate drops and breathing ceases, resulting in death. Research suggests that continued alcohol use can cause depression. Alcohol robs brain cells of water and glucose, the brains food, contributing to a hangover the next day.
Your Gastrointestinal Tract - The stomach is irritated by alcohol, causing increased stomach acid production, causing heartburn and eventually ulcers. Alcohol use is linked to cancer of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines. The liver, due to its role in breaking down alcohol, suffers the most damage. Alcohol use leads to destruction of liver cells, fat accumulation around the liver, and cirrhosis which is a fatal condition. Alcohol is also a diuretic, which causes the kidneys to incre ase urinary output, contributing to dehydration and your hangover.
Your Reproductive System - Although the research here is new, it is know that alcohol decreases the male hormone testosterone. Long-term use causes not only decreased function, but size. The use of alcohol in men and women causes increased sexual desire, but decreased performance. Alcohol is toxic to unborn children causing permanent tissue and organ damage.
Other - Alcohol depresses the bodys immune system making it easier to get sick. It also disrupts your sleep patterns, further depressing the immune system. Alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, constipation, and strokes.
* Adapted from, Taibbi, R. (1994). How alcohol affects you. Current Health, 2, p. 16-19.