Many people drink now and again. However, a segment of the population drinks heavily on a regular basis. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration defines heavy consumption, or binge drinking, as consuming 4 or more alcoholic beverages within a 2-hour period. Additionally, doing this for five or more days each week.
Besides leading to dependence, this type of drinking habit can lead to serious health problems. For example, a person may suffer from heart problems or liver damage. Also, a person may run the risk of developing anemia. Anemia can be quite serious and can lead to weakness, low immunity, or heart failure. At Free by the Sea, we understand the connection between alcohol and anemia. We strive to help patients deal with alcohol misuse disorders so that they can regain healthy lives.
What is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition that affects the blood. More than 1.6 billion people suffer from this condition. When a person has anemia, he or she lacks enough red blood cells to carry necessary oxygen throughout the body. As a result, a person often feels weak or fatigued. If untreated, anemia can be fatal. However, by making a few changes, it is possible to correct the problem.
Oftentimes, an individual doesn’t think about the connection between alcoholism and anemia. However, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to this condition. It is important for a person to recognize that a link does exist between alcohol and anemia. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can aggravate symptoms and cause more severe problems down the line.
Does Alcohol Cause Anemia?
Even though alcohol is not always at the root of anemia, drinking in excess can have negative effects on the body that can lead to the condition. Alcohol impacts the production of red blood cells and lowers the number of precursor cells in a person’s bone marrow.
As a result, fewer and fewer mature red blood cells are created. Also, drinking alcohol impacts the maturation of normal red blood cells. Therefore, there are abnormalities and dysfunction on the cellular level. As alcohol enlarges red blood cells, they end up being destroyed more quickly than regular cells. Understanding this connection between alcoholism and anemia is important.
Ultimately, heavy drinking affects how nutrients become absorbed from food. In other words, alcohol-induced malnutrition results. Overall, this causes iron and folic acid deficiencies. These items are necessary for proper hemoglobin function. When malabsorption occurs, it is not possible for red blood cells to carry the proper amount of oxygen throughout vital tissues. This can lead to breathing difficulties as time goes on.
What Happens When a Person Drinks Excessively While Anemic?
Alcohol abuse can lead to anemia in different ways. Also, drinking in large amounts while suffering from anemia can bring a number of negative side effects. It may make the condition worse as well. The side effects of alcoholism and anemia include:
- Lower production of red blood cells
- Ulcers or inflammation that can lead to blood loss
- Blood cell destruction that results from heart valve problems, mood deficiencies, cancer, or inflammation
A person who drinks heavily is more likely to have a poor diet. As a result, malnutrition is possible. Also, excessive drinking of alcohol affects an individual’s gastrointestinal system. It prevents the proper amount of nutrients from being absorbed in the intestines. This reduction of nutrients prevents bone marrow from properly producing healthy red blood cells.
Alcohol abuse has negative impacts on a person’s liver. It causes a fatty buildup. As a result, inflammation and scar tissue form. This has a negative impact on the organ’s ability to function properly. Also, liver disease changes the way that red blood cells are managed by the body. One of the main symptoms of liver damage is jaundice. In many cases, alcohol and anemia is linked to jaundice.
Clotting Problems and Inflammation
Anemia in alcoholics also causes clotting problems. Since a decrease in red blood cells is associated with lower platelet levels, it becomes difficult for a person’s body to properly form clots. For example, increased nosebleeds are likely.
Unfortunately, such a small issue can turn into a major life-threatening condition like a stroke. Chronic inflammation can arise from an upset stomach as a result of excessive alcohol consumption. Eventually, this leads to ulcers. In fact, these ulcers do not always heal properly, which leads to excessive bleeding. This process can end up resulting in anemia.
Toxic Effects of Alcohol and Anemia
There are a few serious toxic effects of anemia and alcohol. This is why it’s important to recognize a problem and get help sooner than later. At Free by the Sea, we’re ready to help turn a person’s life around for the better.
A direct cause of macrocytosis is alcoholism. As previously discussed, a person with a substance misuse disorder is likely to suffer from poor absorption inside of the intestines. Macrocytosis makes a person experience poor appetite, constipation/diarrhea, pale skin, and swollen gums. Other symptoms may include:
- Concentration difficulties
- Numbness in the hands and feet
In certain cases, alcoholism and anemia are linked. In fact, people who abuse alcohol are much more likely to suffer from a specific kind of anemia. To explain, hemolytic anemia is directly associated with people who binge drink. It influences the normal round shape of red blood cells. As a result, their lifespans are shortened, which can cause serious damage as time goes on.
Additional Long-Term Consequences of Alcohol and Anemia
Drinking alcohol in excessive amounts for prolonged periods of time can have devastating long-term effects on the body. Besides the weakness and tiredness that comes from anemia, this condition also causes an irregular heartbeat, headaches, and chest pains.
Also, it affects the liver, which causes the skin to yellow. Anemia caused by alcohol can cause clotting problems as well. In extreme cases, it can lead to dangerous ulcers and stroke. Given these points, it is essential to seek treatment for alcohol abuse.
How Anemia is Treated
Depending on the cause of anemia, there are different treatments. For example, if a person is deficient in B12 or folic acid, a person may solve the issue by following a proper diet. An individual should incorporate leafy greens into their daily meals. A person may need to receive regular B12 shots. A person with hemolytic anemia receives blood transfusions to deal with the rapid red blood cell depletion.
If a person has alcohol-related anemia, the prognosis is good, especially if his or her substance abuse problem is kept under control. On a positive note, this type of anemia has symptoms that correct themselves when alcohol is not introduced into the body. However, if liver damage has already resulted, lifelong treatment is necessary.
Signs of an Alcohol Misuse Problem
Some people don’t realize that they have problems handling their drinking. By the time they admit that alcohol is wreaking havoc, their bodies may already be suffering from terrible health conditions. Therefore, it is vital to identify the most common symptoms of alcohol misuse, these include:
- Lying about drinking
- Isolation from friends and loved ones
- Performance suffering at work or school
- Drinking to relax constantly
- Participating in high-risk behavior
Treatment for Alcohol Abuse
When a person admits that they have a problem with alcohol, it’s best to seek professional help. In fact, alcohol causes many negative effects on an individual’s mind and body. Besides the person with the addiction problem, it affects his or her loved ones as well.
However, when a person’s health is at risk, it is essential to get things under control as soon as possible. When it comes to alcoholism and anemia, luckily there are certain types of anemia that may be reversible. This is achievable only when alcohol is not in a person’s system. It is vital to find a treatment facility that helps with the detox process and provides further therapies. This is the best hope for a successful recovery.
Overall, residential treatment is best for people who have severe issues with alcohol. Patients receive care in a safe and structured environment. Outpatient therapy offers weekly sessions with trained medical professionals as well. However, a person returns home and is allowed to maintain a more regular schedule outside of a rehab facility. Free by the Sea offers many different types of treatment to match a person’s needs/preferences.
Work with Free by the Sea
With the severe problems that alcohol and anemia can bring, it’s best to get help sooner than later. At Free by the Sea, we are proud to work with individuals who need help with substance misuse disorders. Our Washington facility provides residential and intensive outpatient treatments after the detox process has been completed. Our calm and relaxing environment makes it easier to deal with alcohol problems.
Before patients leave, they learn essential relapse prevention skills so that sobriety is maintained in the long term. Therefore, successful recovery can improve a person’s health. Our staff understands the problems of anemia in alcoholics and goes above and beyond to make sure that all underlying problems are addressed. To get started on the journey towards recovery, contact us today.
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.