What are the side effects of alcohol abuse?

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What are the side effects of alcohol abuse?

25 November, 2019Articles, News

According to data published by the World Health Organisation, South African consumers of alcohol are amongst the heaviest drinkers globally. The unfortunate reality is that the side effects of alcohol abuse are not always prevalent enough to detect at an early stage – at least not the physical side effects. But with the right information, you can empower yourself to know what the signs are and get help for yourself or your loved one before the consequences become catastrophic. It’s important to understand that the side effects of alcohol abuse differ from person to person. There are however a few common experiences that serve as warning signs. Here are a few symptoms to look out for:

Emotional Side Effect: Isolation

For an alcoholic, consuming alcohol almost always begins within the context of social events. And at first, an alcoholic may very well seem like a normal drinker. However, the disease of alcoholism is progressive, which means that an alcoholic may go from drinking only at social occasions, to drinking in the week, to drinking while on the job, for example. At the stage of alcohol dependency, the alcoholic will appear to need alcohol in order to function, and that can entail drinking in isolation from others. Drinking then becomes a way to relieve an acute craving rather than something that is done socially.

Mental Side Effect: Memory Loss

It is not uncommon for alcoholics to experience memory loss, either in the severe case of complete blackouts or to a lesser degree in the case of short-term memory loss that occurs over time. This is because alcohol affects the brain in a profound way. While the medical community is divided as to what the long-term effects of alcohol abuse are on the brain, what is clear is that heavy drinking can have far-reaching effects on memory retention. Drinkers who experience blackouts typically drink too much, too quickly, which causes their blood alcohol levels to rise too quickly.  

Physical Side Effect: Withdrawals

Alcoholics crave alcohol on both a physical and mental level. In the advanced stages of alcoholism, drinkers may experience “the shakes,” which are uncontrollable tremors that occur in one or multiple areas of the body. These shakes are characteristic of alcohol withdrawal and may be so severe that an alcoholic may be prohibited from performing everyday tasks without needing to first alleviate their craving by consuming more alcohol. For this reason, treatment for alcohol addiction usually begins with a thorough detox process. 

Spiritual Side Effect: The Search for an External Solution

Many alcoholics, like addicts share the common experience of not being able to deal effectively with uncomfortable emotions like hurt, disappointment or anger. As a result, many substance abusers, whether knowingly or unknowingly, go in search of an external solution to an internal problem. For this reason, Alcoholics Anonymous focuses on providing a spiritual or internal solution in the form of a 12-step programme that essentially, becomes a new way of life for alcoholics after treatment.

If you or a loved one is in search of help for alcoholism, know that help is readily available. Contact us for a free consultation and we’ll support you in your journey.  



National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


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