The Physical Toll of Alcoholism
We hear over and over again that alcoholism wreaks havoc on the human body, but I’ll never forget the first time I learned how pervasive the damage can be. Hearing about it is one thing, however, but seeing it in print really brought it home to me. It’s not pretty, and that’s a good place to start this cautionary post.
People who drink to excess suffer from poor nutrition because they can’t absorb vitamins properly, so aside from the physical complications, their appearance suffers. Overall poor health from alcoholism can make someone’s skin appear pasty and their hair look dull. If you’ve seen broken capillaries on someone’s face, you’ll probably agree they’re unsightly, too.
But that’s not the half of it. Let’s start at the top. Brain degeneration is a big problem, along with the possibility of severe memory loss and Wernicke-Korsakoff (“wet brain”) syndrome. Symptoms of the latter disorder include unsteady walking, hallucinating, confabulation (making up stories), and vision changes.
Experts say alcoholism can also lead to cancer of the colon, liver, larynx, and esophagus. Not only that, liver disease (alcoholic hepatitis), followed by cirrhosis of the liver, and esophageal bleeding are not uncommon, nor is pancreatitis.
The list goes on. Alcoholics can experience depression, insomnia, high blood pressure, and nerve and heart muscle damage. In women, alcoholism can lead to the cessation of menstruation, and in men, to an inability to get an erection.
On one hand, many of these are clinical-sounding unemotional medical terms that read like a Scared Straight script, the talk prison inmates give to young people to try and keep them on the straight and narrow. On the other hand, if you or a loved one has experienced some of these complications, you know how serious they can be, and how heart-breaking.