Did you know that alcohol is the most commonly abused drug in the world? So abused in fact, that in 2014, it killed nearly 90,000 people and of those 90,000, about 10% were automobile related accidents. We tend to think of alcohol differently than other drugs, but it is equally, if not more dangerous than other substances. Alcohol negatively impacts all of the body's major organs, but we highlight a few in particular:
The pancreas is part of your excretory system, which is in charge of eliminating waste products like alcohol from your body. Under normal circumstances, the pancreas will release digestive enzymes that combine with bile to break down food as it goes through the digestive system. When alcohol is involved, the pancreas produces toxic substances that disrupt proper function and it could eventually lead to pancreatitis.
Liver disease is life threatening, dangerous and often times related to excessive use of alcohol. The liver can break down the poison in small amounts, but when it becomes overwhelming, the organ shuts down and allows the toxins to stay in your body. This could lead to conditions like jaundice, cirrhosis and liver failure if the individual is reckless with their use of the alcohol.
As we said earlier, alcohol damages all of the major organ systems, but nothing is more valuable than your heart with the possible exception of your brain-- but we will get to that later. Your heart is a muscle and it relies on healthy, clean blood flow to operate at maximum efficiency. The real danger when it comes to alcohol and your heart is when you mix ‘uppers’ and ‘downers.’ A drug like cocaine would be considered an ‘upper,’ or a substance that increases your heart rate. Alcohol is a ‘downer,’ or a substance that slows your heart rate. So when the two are mixed, the heart bares the brunt of the damage.
The brain feels the effects of alcohol both during and after consumption. While a person is intoxicated, they may experience impaired judgement, slurred speech and a loss of motor function. This is why organizations like the DOT and FMCSA have such strict alcohol policies. You should NEVER operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of any kind of substance, especially alcohol. Over time, excessive alcohol use can actually shrink the frontal lobes of your brain and lead to dementia, memory loss or stroke.
Alcohol can negatively impact your digestive system all the way from your mouth to your intestines. Heavy drinkers are at greater risk of mouth, throat and esophageal cancer and recent studies have shown that alcohol also causes stomach ulcers.