Left untreated, an alcohol use disorder can wreak havoc on several of the body’s major organs. While some of this damage can heal, stopping alcohol use immediately is the only choice for your long-term organ health. Alcohol rehab in Scottsdale, Arizona, can help show you how to achieve sobriety and begin your health journey.
The Major Organs Affected by Alcohol
The liver, brain, and heart are the primary organs affected by chronic alcohol use. The degree of damage to these organs depends on several factors; your age, quantity of use, and length of use are the major indicators of whether you will suffer long-term damage. The best way to prevent this damage is to seek treatment at an alcohol rehab in Scottsdale before the damage becomes permanent.
Alcohol’s Impact on the Liver
The liver is the organ that is primarily responsible for detoxifying the body. It filters and balances all blood leaving the stomach and intestines and metabolizes toxic drugs or chemicals into less harmful forms. As such, it is the organ primarily responsible for breaking down alcohol and processing it in the body.
Alcohol is broken down within the liver in three steps:
- Alcohol enters the liver in its pure chemical form, known as ethanol
- An enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase breaks ethanol down into acetaldehyde
- Acetaldehyde is further broken down into a harmless chemical called acetate
The chemical acetaldehyde is the key cause of liver damage for alcoholics. Acetaldehyde causes several forms of damage to the liver; it can change the structure of cells within the liver, is a known carcinogen, and causes substantial oxidative stress.
Not surprisingly, acetaldehyde is also responsible for the well-known effects of a hangover. High levels of acetaldehyde can cause headaches, redness in the face, and nausea. Unfortunately, the liver is relatively slow at processing acetaldehyde into acetate.
Alcoholics who drink for extended periods face severe liver damage as a result. Extended alcohol use often ends in liver cirrhosis, which is chronic damage that cannot heal. Cirrhosis is often fatal, so the best course to prevent damage is to stop drinking as soon as you have noticed liver issues or problems controlling your drinking.
Alcohol’s Impact on the Brain
Alcohol also has serious detrimental effects on the brains of alcoholics. There are several ways that alcohol affects the brain.
First, repeated alcohol use can change the reward pathways within the brain, which has been repeatedly linked to addictive behaviors and an impaired ability to choose to stop.
Second, long-term alcoholics may experience a terrifying condition known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.1 Also known informally as “wet brain,” this syndrome is a brain disease that seriously impairs functioning and is often fatal. Wernicke-Korsakoff is brought on primarily by a thiamine deficiency and can be prevented if treatment is sought in time.
Lastly, the cardiovascular system can experience severe consequences of sustained alcohol use. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant – meaning it slows the body’s automatic functions, such as heart rate and respiration. Even low levels of alcohol use temporarily lower your blood pressure.
However, when alcoholics enter withdrawal, the central nervous system bounces back in the other direction. This push-and-pull puts extreme stress on your cardiovascular system, often resulting in a disease known as alcoholic cardiomyopathy. This disease describes a weakened heart that cannot pump blood efficiently and is often fatal.
Seeking Treatment at an Alcohol Rehab in Scottsdale
The best way to ensure your organs don’t suffer these serious consequences is to seek treatment at an alcohol rehab in Scottsdale as soon as possible. Your brain and body have a remarkable ability to recover, but this healing cannot occur until you achieve abstinence.
Halting consumption of alcohol at this stage is no easy feat. An alcohol use disorder can have serious effects that impair your ability to stop, including:
- Dangerous withdrawal effects
- Changes in the brain’s reward pathways that inhibit your ability to stop independently
- Constant cravings for alcohol
- Restlessness, anxiety, and depression
Desert Cove Recovery’s alcohol rehab in Scottsdale can help you overcome these symptoms, achieve sobriety and enter recovery. Our team of experienced and compassionate professionals can help show you the way to recovery and will be there to support you every step of the way. Contact us today to start your journey to health and put down the drink for good.