New Year’s Eve is right around the corner, and many of us are looking forward to celebrating with family and friends. Frequently, these celebrations involve alcoholic beverages.  If this is the case for you, you might wonder how alcohol affects your body and what you can do to mitigate alcohol’s effects.

people toasting with champagne

Effects on the Body of Drinking Alcohol 

Alcohol is a drug, and actually represents one of our more dangerous drugs of abuse.  That it is common and relatively accepted socially does not mean it isn’t dangerous and harmful.  It currently kills and injures more Americans than any other drug, by far. 

As a drug, alcohol produces a variety of impacts on our bodies. These include:

  • The Brain: Alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells in the brain, making it difficult to think clearly. It can also change your mood and behavior while also affecting your motor skills.  It is a powerful sedative, and at large doses causes unconsciousness and eventually death.  It is highly addictive and leads to abuse that negatively impacts the lives of those who become habituated to it.
  • The Heart: Alcohol can have several negative consequences for your heart.  Heavy, prolonged alcohol use can cause the heart muscle to stretch, impacting its ability to pump effectively and eventually leading to heart failure. Excessive drinking can also lead to cardiac arrhythmia, meaning that your heart does not beat properly. Alcohol can also increase your blood pressure.
  • The Liver: The liver is responsible for filtering alcohol from your body. If you overwhelm your liver with too much alcohol at a time, you can cause serious damage. Excessive, chronic drinking can lead to alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and eventually complete failure.
  • Traumatic injury: Fully half of the trauma seen in emergency departments in our country is related to alcohol.  Sadly, some of these injuries lead to death.

These are just a few of the many impacts that alcohol can have on your body.  You may have noticed that none of these effects are positive or desirable.  That’s because the bulk of impacts of alcohol on our bodies are negative, to say nothing of the serious behavioral consequences it can create.  

While some preliminary studies indicate mild cardiovascular benefits for mild alcohol consumption, these findings remain controversial and the benefits they identify are minor.  We know of many other things a person can do that produce greater cardiovascular benefits than any of the studies on alcohol have demonstrated.  At this time, the vast majority of research reveals primarily negative effects from consuming alcohol.  Certainly, at this time, nobody should drink specifically out of hope for any positive health benefit.  And we all should limit our alcohol intake as much as possible.

Mitigating the Effect of Alcohol on the Body

Clearly, the effects of alcohol on your body can be severe. Fortunately, there are ways for you to mitigate its impact. A few examples include:

  • Drink Water: Alcohol is a diuretic. This means that when you drink alcohol, your body produces more urine. After drinking heavily, it is reasonable to drink extra water to replace any excess fluids lost.
  • Drink in Moderation: The best way to reduce the impact of alcohol on your body is to not drink as much.  If you decide to drink, you should do so in moderation. Try to avoid having too many drinks, and try not to drink them in rapid succession.  Unfortunately, one of the effects of alcohol is disinhibition, making it difficult for many people to stick to their plan to drink alcohol in moderation.  You may want to have someone keep an eye on you to monitor how much you are drinking. 

A Holiday Message from Your Friends at CapRock

If you are drinking this holiday season, please do so safely. Make sure you stick to your limits, and never drink and drive.