Alcohol and Your Health
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Alcohol use impacts many aspects of your body and mind. And while we sometimes hear that moderate drinking has health benefits, the relationship of alcohol and health unfortunately tends to be more negative than positive.
Depending on how much you consume, alcohol can cause a number of chronic illnesses, create or worsen mental health issues, and affect your day-to-day wellness.
For some, this can lead to serious health problems. For others, it can mean many smaller issues adding up to an overall “less-that-healthy” feeling. But no matter how alcohol impacts you personally, if you drink, it’s important to arm yourself with information about the risks.
Table of Contents
COVID-19 and Alcohol
The Coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented changes to our daily lives—including increased isolation, financial insecurity, and a large amount of added stress. One consequence of this is that levels of alcohol use, and alcohol-related illness, have risen sharply since early 2020.1 It also turns out that heavy drinking can actually make you more susceptible to COVID-19 infection.
Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 and Alcohol
Common Illnesses Caused by Alcohol
Chronic, heavy alcohol use—and in rarer cases, even moderate drinking—can cause or worsen a number of serious health problems.
When it comes to alcohol and health, liver damage is perhaps the most notorious problem. But alcohol has also been linked to multiple types of cancer, pancreatitis, kidney disease, gastritis, hypertension, and neurological disorders. And, despite the reputation red wine has for being heart-healthy, heavy drinking is linked to numerous types of cardiovascular disease.2
On top of all this, alcohol is known to boost inflammation throughout your body, and to weaken your immune system. In other words, chronic drinking puts you at higher risk for health problems in general. On the whole, the less you drink, the less likely you are to get seriously ill.
Read more about Common Diseases Caused by Alcohol Use
Alcohol and Your Mental Health
Mental health and alcohol use have a complex chicken-and-egg relationship. But it’s well known that alcohol can worsen both depression and anxiety, and even create issues where there were none before.3
Alcohol does this because it impacts your brain chemistry. Drinking alcohol causes you to feel more relaxed or at ease in the moment, but generally creates the opposite feeling as it wears off. The more often you drink, the more your brain adapts to these effects, making you feel worse without alcohol.
This is one major reason people become addicted to alcohol in the first place: Those who drink to cope with mental health problems can get caught in a vicious cycle of self-medication and withdrawal symptoms. In fact, numerous mental health issues are often comorbid with alcohol dependence. Even minor anxiety can impact when and how you drink.
Learn more about Alcohol and Your Mental Health
Alcohol certainly affects your internal health, but we shouldn’t overlook the way it affects you externally, either. Heavy drinking—especially binge drinking—can lead to risky behavior and injury.
Intoxicated people are more likely to be involved in an accident, get into a fight, fall and hurt themselves, have unprotected sex, or make other decisions that endanger themselves and others.4 The consequences of this can be short-term, such as a sprained ankle, or long-term, such as a permanent back injury or sexually transmitted infection. If you get in a car accident or experience alcohol poisoning, the consequences could even be fatal.
Learn more about Common Alcohol-Related Injuries
Alcohol and Your Overall Wellness
Of course, you don’t need to be alcohol dependent, or have any kind of significant drinking problem, to be impacted by alcohol. From fitness, to digestion, sex, skin health, and, of course, the dreaded hangover, drinking alcohol can affect how you feel day-to-day in numerous ways. In fact, many people cut it out of their diet just to feel healthier overall.
Read more: Alcohol and Your General Wellness
Repairing Your Health After Alcohol Addiction
Finally, even if none of the facts on alcohol and health are news to you, you may still want to know how to care for yourself as you recover from the impacts of problem drinking.
If you are still drinking, and it’s affecting your well-being, the first place to start is to quit alcohol. If that’s more easily said than done, there are more resources to help than ever before.
If you’ve already given up alcohol, or cut back significantly, there are a number of things you can do to help your body and mind repair themselves. Here, we’ve listed a number of helpful resources on everything from setting new habits, to improving nutrition and rebalancing your brain chemicals.
Read more about Repairing Your Health After Alcohol Addiction
Ready to make a change?
Ria Health offers an evidence-based, 100% online program to help you change your relationship with alcohol. Choose moderation or abstinence, and get support tailored to your unique needs. Learn more about how it works, or get started today.