Most of us have been a witness to the fairly immediate effects of alcohol on a person. His face may become flushed, speech turn free and animated and social inhibitions thrown to the wind. While it may seem like alcohol is a stimulant, in reality it depresses the central nervous system. This above mentioned behavior is because alcohol affects the portions of the brain that control judgment.
The reason why the effect of alcohol is so rapid is that it does not go through the normal digestive process, but is directly absorbed into the blood stream. Alcohol affects the entire body, for the brain, liver, heart, pancreas, lungs, kidneys, and every other organ and tissue system are invaded by alcohol within minutes after it passes into the blood stream.
Apart from the above mentioned reactions, other immediate side effects include slurred speech, hazy thinking, slowed reaction time, dulled hearing, impaired vision, weakened muscles and fogged memory. Nausea, vomiting and disturbed sleep are also common side effects of alcohol.
Even a little consumption of alcohol significantly impairs judgment and coordination, which is why driving is prohibited when you are drunk. Hangovers, which usually include headache, nausea, thirst, dizziness, and fatigue, are also the side effects of alcohol.
Side Effects of Alcohol on the Body
Central Nervous System
When alcohol is present in the Central Nervous System, it affects emotional and sensory function, judgment, memory and learning ability. A person's sense of smell and taste are dulled. As alcohol level rises in the blood, one's ability to withstand pain increases. Three evident effects of alcohol on the brain are memory loss, confusion, and augmentation. Long-term effects of alcohol on the central nervous system include tolerance and dependency.
With each drinking episode, a person's central nervous system functions deteriorate. This process starts with impaired intellectual functioning, followed by disruption of sensory and motor controls. Finally, the automatic biological functions including breathing and heart action are affected.
With small amounts of alcohol, the liver is able to cleanse the body of toxins. However, when the amount of alcohol is high, imbalances occur and the person may suffer from Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD). This is a cover term for the health conditions like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperuricemia (as in arthritis or gout), fatty liver (which may lead to alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis), and hyperlipemia (build-up of fats sent to the bloodstream, which leads to heart problems).
One of the dangers of alcohol is that it can result in the breaking of capillaries and blood vessels. This can lead to hemorrhage, and even death. It can also cause anemia, decreased resistance to infection, and a lowered ability to fight them. It can cause sedation of the bone marrow, which is reduction in the red and white blood count. This action weakens the bone structure.
Comprising the stomach, small and large intestines and pancreas, the side effects of alcohol on the gastrointestinal tract can include gastritis and intestinal or stomach ulcers. Alcohol can prompt the pancreas to produce insulin which causes a rapid drop in blood sugar, and the consequent symptom of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Eventually, the pancreas may stop producing insulin entirely, which can result in diabetes.
Alcohol reduces blood flow to the muscles, including the heart. This causes heart muscle to weaken and deteriorate. The outcome of this can be cardiomyopathy (sluggish heart), arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), or "holiday heart". Some people experience skeletal muscle damages due to excessive alcohol consumption. Protein synthesis is badly affected, which in turn affects muscle growth.
Muscle build-up in the body takes place because of growth hormone. This growth hormone is secreted during sleeping hours and as the natural sleeping hours are disrupted by alcoholism, the growth hormone release decreases affecting muscle development. Other than this, hangovers include muscle aches in both men and women.
The Endocrine System controls the body's hormones. One of the side effects of alcohol consumption is the decrease in the production of hormones. The outcome of this decrease includes higher susceptibility to allergies and hampered sexual functioning. It can decrease sexual functioning in men and women in many different ways.
Prolonged use of alcohol in men also leads to an increase of the "female hormone" estrogen, and the consequent development of features such as enlarged breasts and a decrease in body hair. It also cause infertility in both men and women.
The one that seems to bother people the most is weight gain. The other factors that affect one's appearance after alcohol consumption are poor skin and brittle hair and nails.