An Overview of How Alcoholism Can Kill You

Alcoholism can and does kill. Not only can it lead to premature death, but excessive drinking can significantly diminish your quality of life as well. Abusing alcohol, particularly over the long term, can impact every part of your body, including your heart. When you binge drink, it can lead to problems ranging from high blood pressure to heart failure.

Alcohol use has linked to or resulted in:

  • Raising the risk of cancer
  • Making it difficult for the brain to create new cells
  • Liver problems and liver failure
  • Poorer outcomes following surgery
  • Brain damage
  • Death due to mixing alcohol with prescription drugs

There is the potential for alcohol to damage every organ in your body. Since it’s directly absorbed into your bloodstream, it can increase your risk for multiple life-threatening and chronic diseases.

When you drink excessively, alcohol lowers your inhibitions so that you may engage in risky behaviors. Binge drinking large amounts in a short time window can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can result in coma or death.

The effects of alcoholism are so varied and far-reaching that there are seemingly endless ways alcoholism can kill you. We’ll focus on some of the most common, although there are many others.

Liver Disease

One of the most common ways alcoholism kills is related to the liver. Your liver is responsible for metabolizing and filtering out alcohol’s toxins, which is why it’s so heavily impacted by alcoholism.

There are three primary types of liver diseases associated with alcoholism, and these are also the biggest causes of death among alcoholics.

The first is fatty liver disease, and with this one, the person often experiences no symptoms. If someone stops drinking, fatty liver disease will usually heal itself. If not, it can move to more deadly types of liver disease.

Alcoholic hepatitis refers to liver inflammation, and it’s common for heavy drinkers and alcoholics. It can be a progressive disease, and symptoms include vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, stomach pain and jaundice. If it’s not treated, it can result in death.

Finally, the most serious and deadly liver disease associated with alcoholism is cirrhosis. With cirrhosis, the normal liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue. It takes around ten years before this starts to occur in most people, and it impacts 10-20% of long-term heavy drinkers. The damage caused by cirrhosis isn’t reversible, and it’s one of the primary ways alcoholism can kill you.

Cancer

Alcoholism can kill you by increasing the risk of developing many of the most deadly types of cancers. Some of the cancers associated with alcohol use and alcoholism include:

  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Breast
  • Liver
  • Colon
  • Rectum
  • Voice box
  • Esophagus
  • Pancreas

Alcohol has been cited as a high-risk factor for all of these. In some cancers, you don’t have to be an alcoholic to have an increased risk. Even having a few drinks a week increases risks for certain cancers.

Drunk Driving Accidents

Along with increasing your chances of liver diseases and serious cancers, another way alcoholism can kill is through accidents, including motor vehicle crashes.

In 2018, more than 10,000 people died because of crashes related to alcohol impairment. That was more than a quarter of all U.S. deaths related to traffic accidents.

Heart Disease

In general, heart disease is one of the top killers of Americans. Alcoholism can increase the chances of dying from heart-related diseases and complications. For example, the more you drink, the more likely you are to be obese and have high blood pressure.

Excessive drinking and alcoholism can lead to rising triglycerides in the blood. Triglycerides are harmful fats, and they can lead to consuming too many calories, having high blood pressure and heart failure. They can also lead to stroke, sudden cardiac death, cardiac arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy.

End-Stage Alcoholism

The amount of time struggling with alcoholism is an important part of how alcoholism can kill you. Most medical professionals classify alcoholism as a progressive, chronic disease, meaning it gets worse over time.

Once you’ve entered the later stages of alcoholism, your body starts to deteriorate quickly. Your cells start losing the ability to regenerate and heal themselves as they’re meant to, and your liver begins to have trouble supplying nutrients to the rest of your body.

There can be intense deficiencies leading to complications of the central nervous system. Some of the conditions related to progressively-worse alcoholism include all the illnesses named before, plus chronic bronchitis, emphysema and pneumonia.

However, even if you are in the later stages of alcoholism, there are ways to recover and heal your body, at least somewhat. Seeking help is essential to avoid becoming a worst-case scenario.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcoholism, The Recovery Village can help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment options and resources available to begin your journey to recovery.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.