Misusing alcohol comes with many risks, especially after long periods of time. Repercussions can include mental, physical, and emotional complications and damage.
Those who have an alcohol dependence may have to deal with certain side effects of that misuse even after they’ve stopped drinking. Newly detoxified people who misused alcohol over the long term and are newly sober show some signs of cognitive impairment in varying degrees, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). By remaining abstinent, however, people recovering from alcohol misuse will continue to recover brain function over a period of several months to 1 year with improvements in working memory, visuospatial functioning, and attention-accompanied by significant increases in brain volume.
That being said, there is hope for many who have gone through alcohol dependency to regain much of their mental, physical, and emotional health again through sobriety.
Can You Reverse Brain Damage Caused by Alcohol?
Many studies have been done on the effects of alcohol on the brain, and there are many ongoing studies and a lot of research still happening today. Many people, after not drinking for several months, experience a partial correction of structural changes done to the brain. After 5-7 years of complete abstinence from alcohol, the healing continues, with the most prominent changes to the brain restored to what they were before, according to a report published by the NIH. Nonetheless, while most damage is healed, not every change that occurred is completely remitted over time.
Part of what can make it so difficult to pinpoint an exact timeline for when and how much damage is restored are the numerous factors at play. Gender, genetics, length of misuse, and consumption are all varying factors that may explain when the brain will be restored. But with all of these factors varying from one person to the next, most studies show basic timelines and approximations based on the research and knowledge.
Can You Reverse Alcohol's Effects on the Heart?
The factors that go into resolving heart issues related to alcohol misuse are similar to the timeline for healing the brain. Still, studies have seen a pattern in most heart problem cases. A happy combination of abstaining from alcohol, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress management means that much of the damage that has been done to the cardiovascular system may be reversed within the first year of sobriety. On the other hand, it’s also noted that a complete reversal of all heart damage is not fully restored over time and that after the first year of abstaining, any resolving of damage done slows down.
Can Liver Damage Caused by Alcohol be Reversed?
The damage done to one’s liver can be quite dangerous, as the liver is responsible for eliminating waste products and any other toxic substances in the body. Alcohol is metabolized before other substances by the liver. When one consumes an excessive amount, it leads to the liver over-working itself to process it, leading to scar tissue and, in time, cirrhosis.
Along with abstinence and time, replacing certain fats in one’s diet can help the liver to recover from much of the malnutrition damage and alcohol-related liver damage done to the body, according to a publication by Charles S. Lieber, M.D., M.A.C.P.
The earlier one can stop drinking and get treatment for alcohol dependency, if needed, the less damage to the liver there will be and the easier it is to recover. That being said, for those who develop cirrhosis due to the damage done to the liver, a liver transplant may, unfortunately, be the only option to regain liver health.
Can You Recover Socially After Misusing Alcohol?
It can be tough to determine an exact timeline of when social issues, such as family estrangement, job loss, and education, can be resolved, as there is an incredible number of variables involved. Still, one thing is clear: the longer a person abstains from alcohol, and the more invested one is in a treatment or recovery program, the better chance they have at improving their social life. The amount of time it can take for people to accept the changes and to move on from the past is different from person to person, but many have and continue to move forward and accept the past while not letting it dictate their future.
Moving on From Alcohol Dependence
There are many health risks involved with misusing alcohol, especially the longer one misuses it. A lot of damage can be done to both the body and the brain, leading to some pretty uncomfortable side effects. However, research has shown that by adhering to a good, solid recovery plan that works for an individual’s needs and staying involved in a recovery program and then community therein, a person can regain much of their mental and physical health while continuing to abstain from alcohol.