There are a lot of misconceptions about alcoholism. The most prevalent misconception involves the notion that high functioning individuals may not be alcoholics.
Before we can realistically look at alcoholism as it is, there needs to be an understanding of how experts define alcoholism. Someone who feels they “need” to drink is alcohol dependent. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are alcoholics. The point at which they become alcoholics is when their bodies exhibit withdrawal symptoms when denied alcohol. That’s the point where dependence becomes an addiction.
As a point of reference, here is a partial list of alcohol related withdrawal symptoms:
- Profuse sweating
- Body tremors in the extremities
- Inability to concentrate and control body function
- High levels of anxiety and irritability
- Hallucinations and trouble sleeping
- High blood pressure issues
- Nausea and vomiting
Getting back to the misconception related to maintaining function, there are lots of people who qualify as high functioning alcoholics. However, they are still alcoholics. They have to drink or suffer the consequences of not doing so. In all likelihood, they have been drinking enough over a long period to cause health issues.
Any reasonable discussion about the dangers of alcoholism has to address both short-term and long-term issues. In the short-term, excessive drinking causes people to take unnecessary risks. That might include driving while under the influence or drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning. Even withdrawal symptoms can present dangers. More than a few people have committed suicide while in the throes of hallucinations or depression.
For purposes of addressing the titled question, we want to focus on the longterm physical effects of alcoholism.
Can You Die from Alcoholism if You Seem to Have Your Life Together?
The cover of a book can look pristine while the pages insides are all torn and tattered. That’s a metaphor for what can happen to someone’s body while they insist their drinking is having little effect on their body. Outwardly, their life might seem together while internally, alcohol is chewing their body up.
The answer to the titled question is very clear. Yes, you can die from alcoholism no matter how well you function on a day to day basis.
First, let’s talk about something that can happen if you drink a lot of alcohol over a short period. There is a condition the medical profession calls Ketoacidosis or metabolic acidosis. This condition is best described as follows:
Your body cells need glucose (sugar) and insulin. The glucose usually comes from what you eat while the insulin comes from your pancreas. Drinking too much alcohol blocks these body processes. Since your body needs glucose and insulin as a source of energy, the lack of these byproducts is dangerous. It forces the body to consume fat to produce the energy it needs. When your body burns fat at high rates, it produces ketone. The buildup of ketone causes Ketoacidosis, which is a life-threatening condition.
What we want to point out is Ketoacidosis can happen whether you are an alcoholic or not. Too much alcohol over a short period is enough to create the problem.
Now, we want to address the longterm effects of alcoholism. The truth is alcohol can cause significant damage to your heart, brain, and liver. Yes, alcohol harms the three most important organs in your body. Here’s a short list of conditions or disorders that occur in people with a longterm drinking problem:
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (known as wet brain), causes a dangerous thiamine deficiency
- Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver that results in diminished liver function)
- Steatosis (liver looses the ability to properly process fat particles)
All three of these conditions are life-threatening. What you need to know is there will be a point of no return. With every drink, you are doing more damage to your body. It doesn’t matter what your life looks like on the outside. Alcohol doesn’t care about that. Its sole purpose is to destroy your mind and body until you stop drinking or succumb to your alcoholism
Before you reach the point of no return, we hope you will reach out for help. If and when you do, we will be here to help you in any way that we can. What we need from you is one phone call to 833-610-1174. With that one call, we can tell you about our services and hopefully get you in our front door for treatment.