April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a movement established in 1987 to encourage communities to talk about addiction openly and help reduce the stigma around alcoholism.

After the year we’ve had, it’s common to feel like you’ve become lackadaisical with your discipline. Maybe you’ve packed on some quarantine pounds or haven’t picked your workout routine back up just yet. On the flip side, along with the things we gave up on in 2020 were the not-so-healthy habits we picked up. According to the CDC, drinking is one of those; “participants reported perceived increases in their current alcohol intake compared to pre-COVID-19.”

Take a Step Back

What starts as a way to unwind or cope with stress can quickly turn into a much bigger problem for some people. If this is an issue that rings true to you, you’re in good company. An NIH study reports that more than 15 million people struggle with alcoholism.

Whether you suffer from alcoholism or not, everyone could benefit from at least cutting back their alcohol consumption. Long-term excessive drinking isn’t worth the toll it takes on your physical and mental health—not to mention your bank account and relationships.

Here are ten ways heavy drinking is proven to negatively affect the body:

  1. Long-term binge drinking can cause cardiomyopathy, stroke, arrhythmias, high blood pressure, and other heart damage.
  2. Alcohol can affect the way the brain works by inferring with its communication pathways.
  3. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to excessive bloating, gas, and stomach ulcers.
  4. Alcohol abuse has been linked to an increased risk of dementia.
  5. Mouth, throat, and esophagus cancers are more likely to form in chronic drinkers.
  6. Alcohol consumption commonly takes a toll on the liver, causing inflammation, fatty liver disease (steatosis), fibrosis, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis.
  7. Pancreatitis is more common in heavy drinkers, as alcohol causes the production of toxic substances in the pancreas.
  8. Long-term use can weaken your immune system, making your body an easy target for disease.
  9. Mental health deterioration is commonly caused by alcohol, and at least 30-40 percent of alcoholics experience depression.
  10. Those who have 25 drinks per week (roughly three and a half drinks a day) could have a shorter life expectancy by four to five years.

Are you at risk?

According to Harvard Health Publishing, “high-risk drinking” is considered:

  • For women: Four or more drinks in one day or eight or more drinks per week.
  • For men: Five or more drinks in one day or 15 or more drinks per week.

If you’ve considered quitting or cutting back on drinking, take Alcohol Awareness Month as the push you need to commit to a healthier lifestyle!

If you’re currently in recovery and struggling with the temptation to relapse, we encourage you to use this time as a chance to reach out and talk to someone.

For more resources to help live a sober life, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.