The Effects Of A Hangover
Do you ever wonder what happens to your body when you have a hangover? After a night of heavy drinking, you may experience a combination of uncomfortable symptoms such as a sore throat, stomach pain, and nausea. Being hungover is hard on your body, but alcohol’s long-term effects can be even worse. Take the tour below to see firsthand the toll alcohol can take on many aspects of your health – from proper sleep to your heart function.
Hangover Effects on Your Body
You finish your last drink and now you’re sleepy – and it’s not hard to drift off quickly thanks to alcohol’s sedative effect. But when you wake up the next morning, you don’t feel rested. The alcohol you consumed most likely caused you to sleep lightly and suppressed your REM cycle—drastically cutting down the amount of restorative sleep that your body requires.
The excess alcohol can also inflame both your esophageal and stomach lining, causing you to vomit. You may even have diarrhea because your bowels are having trouble re-absorbing water after first being exposed to a large amount of alcohol.
Your mouth may be dry, your head dizzy and you may also feel very thirsty from dehydration. In addition, the alcohol-induced drop in blood sugar makes you feel weak and fatigued.
No one likes dealing with a hangover. Unfortunately, though, alcohol’s long-term effects on your body are even more dangerous.
If hangovers are becoming a typical part of your mornings, it’s not too late to change the course of alcohol’s effects on your long-term health. The content on Alcohol.org is brought to you by American Addiction Centers (AAC), a leading national provider of addiction treatment. Consider calling our hotline at 888-685-5770 for a new lease on your health.
Long-Term Effects of Drinking on the Heart
The heart is one of the most important of your vital organs, with the demanding role of pumping blood throughout your entire body. So what can happen to your heart when you drink habitually?
Alcoholic cardiomyopathy causes the heart muscle to stretch, thicken and stop contracting effectively—preventing your other organs from getting the blood they need. If you develop this condition, you probably feel short of breath and fatigued; your heartbeat is irregular, and your legs and feet are swollen. The toxic effects on your heart are progressive—if you don’t do something, it can lead to heart failure.
If your heart is beating rapidly and irregularly, diminishing efficient cardiac functioning and forward blood flow, you may be experiencing atrial fibrillation. You may notice weakness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations. Tempted to ignore the signs? Don’t. Though it can come and go, atrial fibrillation is serious: It can lead to blood clots, stroke, and heart failure.
Ventricular tachycardia has several potential causes – but heavy drinking is a major one. If you have this disease, your heart’s ventricle malfunctions and causes an extremely fast heartbeat – so fast that your heart can’t fill up with enough blood between beats. This condition can result in dizziness, lightheadedness, unconsciousness, cardiac arrest, and even death.
Long-Term Effects of Drinking on the Liver
Your liver is your largest glandular organ, and it affects just about every other part of your body. Among other roles, it detoxifies blood, stores nutrients, and metabolizes drugs – and you can’t live without it.
Unfortunately, even just a few days of heavy drinking can cause a buildup of fat in your liver, referred to as steatosis (or fatty liver). As this condition progresses, you may notice that you’re tired, weak, nauseated, possibly confused, and you may lose your appetite. While other conditions can lead to steatosis, consuming too much alcohol is a major cause. What can you do? The liver is somewhat unique in that it can regenerate some functioning after being damaged—but only to a certain extent. In other words, stop drinking immediately.
If you drink enough, your liver actually becomes injured – and its response is to produce scar tissue, just as other body parts do. This condition is called fibrosis. If left unchecked, it can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure, among other issues. You may even need a liver transplant, though an active alcohol abuse problem may make it difficult to be placed on a transplant waiting list.
If you still don’t stop drinking despite the accumulation of scar tissue, you may get cirrhosis. This slow deterioration of the liver prevents it from doing its job. You may end up with conditions including jaundice, type 2 diabetes, and even your risk of liver cancer rises markedly.
Long-Term Effects of Drinking on the Pancreas
From its spot behind your stomach, your pancreas produces hormones and secretes digestive enzymes to help your body break down food and absorb nutrients. It’s kind of a big deal.
Generally caused by heavy drinking over several years, acute pancreatitis occurs when your pancreas becomes inflamed. You may notice exquisitely sharp abdominal pain or tenderness, nausea, fever, and rapid heart rate. Chronic pancreatitis causes these same symptoms, along with weight loss. Cutting out alcohol is a priority if you have pancreatitis; as an endocrine organ – and one that manufactures enzymes vital to the digestive process – when left untreated, a process known as pancreatic autodigestion can result. This can destroy the pancreas and surrounding tissues, leading to profound endocrine dysfunction (including malabsorption problems and diabetes) and even death.
We used the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s WONDER Compressed Mortality File to locate alcohol-related deaths from 1999 to 2013. Using ICD-10 codes, we selected deaths for which the underlying cause was physical illnesses related to alcohol (E24.4, G31.2, G62.1, G72.1, I42.6, K29.2, K70.0, K70.1, K70.2, K70.3, K70.4, K70.9, K85.2, K86.0, R78.0); mental or behavioral disorders linked to alcohol (F10.0, F10.1, F10.2, F10.3, F10.4, F10.5, F10.6, F10.7, F10.8, F10.9); or alcohol poisoning (X45, X65, Y15). For bar graphs of age group and gender, each sub-group’s percentage was calculated as their fraction of the total deaths from alcohol-related physical illnesses, mental/behavioral disorders, or alcohol poisoning from 1999 to 2013.