How Alcohol Addiction Affects the Liver

How Alcohol Addiction Affects the Liver

There are many reasons a person finds themself battling an addiction to alcohol. For some, there are genetic dispositions. For others, the use or abuse of alcohol early in life leads to a lifetime of dependence and abuse. There are still others who turn to alcohol to cope with struggles, stress, or mental illness. Alcohol abuse not only destroys careers and relationships, but alcohol addiction also affects the liver. Researchers have documented the harmful effects of drug use on the liver1, highlighting the dangers of drug addiction. 

Can Your Liver Get Better if You Stop Drinking?

If a person gives their liver time to heal, they can repair some of the damage caused by addiction. But if not treated, the chain reaction to a damaged liver can cause damage to other organs and ultimately be deadly.

Why Alcohol Addiction Affects the Liver

The breakdown of many chemicals happens mainly in the liver. That’s why the organ is susceptible to drug-induced injuries.2 Drug-induced liver toxicity is a leading cause of liver injury. It accounts for acute liver failure and resembles every acute and chronic liver disease.

Since alcohol is broken down in the liver, several potentially dangerous by-products are generated from the metabolism, including highly reactive molecules called free radicals. These by-products contribute to liver damage more so than the alcohol itself. 3

How Alcohol Addiction Damages the Liver

We know from decades of research that alcohol abuse impacts the liver in a variety of ways. A person can reverse some of the damage, yet at some point, harm to the liver can be fatal.

Alcohol Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis is a disorder that is characterized by extreme inflammation along with the destruction of liver tissue. Over time, scar tissue will begin to replace healthy liver tissue through a process known as fibrosis. 

You can spot alcoholic hepatitis – a potentially fatal condition – through some key reactions, including:

  • Fever
  • Jaundice
  • Abdominal pain

Fatty Liver

A common negative consequence of alcohol abuse is a fatty liver. Fatty liver is one reversible impact of the overconsumption of alcohol. The initial sign of a fatty liver is inflammation. If a person doesn’t change their behavior, inflammation will damage the liver. The damaged areas can then turn into scar tissue, with excessive scar tissue impeding the liver from working correctly.4 This final stage is ultimately cirrhosis of the liver.

Alcohol Cirrhosis

Alcoholic cirrhosis is the most advanced form of liver disease. A cirrhotic liver is marked by extensive fibrosis that stiffens blood vessels. This reaction changes the internal structure of the liver, which leads to severe functional impairment of the organ. Once the liver is impaired to this extent, other organs, including the brain and kidneys, may also start to fail. Often alcoholic cirrhosis kills a person, but the organ can stabilize with abstinence through treatment for the addiction.

Overcoming An Alcohol Addiction

Drug use can also affect the liver. During the withdrawal from other drugs, you may feel various withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, anxiety, rapid heart beating, sweating, and shaking.5 But with alcohol withdrawal, patients should be monitored closely as the process can be deadly. Some of the most worrisome symptoms include hallucinations, delusions or delirium, seizures, and high fever.

Desert Cove Recovery is an alcohol addiction rehab in Arizona. Our experienced staff can provide unparalleled personal attention to you or your loved one. You’ll receive individualized care that will help set you on the path to recovery.

We know healing from an addiction is possible. Contact Desert Cove Recovery today, we are here to help.

Sources:

[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/health-consequences-drug-misuse/liver-damage

[2] https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/38/Supplement_2/S44/330611?login=true

[3] https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh21-1/05.pdf

[4] https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15831-fatty-liver-disease

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64116/

About Blake Nichols

Blake Nichols is the Director of Operations at Desert Cove Recovery. Blake battled his own addiction to drugs and alcohol and was given the gift of recovery at the age of 23. Since 2008, Blake has dedicated his life and career to the field of addiction. He has experience in all aspects of addiction treatment including direct care, admissions, marketing, and administration.
Blake feels that the greatest reward of working in the recovery field is being part of the transformation that a person goes through from the time they arrive and begin treatment, through the hard work and the Miracle of recovery, and ultimately the change into a confident and capable person ready to carry the message of recovery.
"My career has focused on serving others. I have accepted ownership of my responsibilities as that is the key to working at the highest level of professionalism. I have worked to be positive and offer solution-based suggestions in my work and personal life."