The effects of alcoholism can impact pretty much every part of the body. If a person doesn’t stop drinking, things will only worsen with time. But are these physical effects permanent or can they be reversed?

Can You Reverse the Physical Effects of Alcoholism?

Most people are aware that alcohol abuse can have dangerous consequences on the body and that over time, the effects of alcoholism can become more and more severe. This may lead some to wonder—is it too late to recover?

The following are some of the most common lasting physical effects of alcoholism. Some of them might even be reversible if a person stops drinking today.

The Brain

Alcohol-related brain impairment refers to the damaging impact that excessive alcohol consumption can have on the brain’s ability to function. Alcohol abuse can have poisonous effects on both the brain and the spinal cord, including a loss of white matter tissue and living brain cells.

Alcoholism most often impacts higher-level mental skills, behavioral control and the brain’s ability to control and coordinate muscle movement. Specifically, excessive alcohol causes acute changes to three main chemical processes of the brain: gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), glutamate and dopamine.



GABA is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter within the central nervous system. It works by reducing brain energy and calming us down. Alcohol, a sedative, is a central nervous system depressant that enhances the effects of GABA.


Glutamate is an acid that acts as a neurotransmitter. Glutamate keeps us awake and alert. Alcohol reduces the effect of glutamate.


Dopamine is another one of the brain’s neurotransmitters and acts as the brain’s pleasure center. Alcohol works by stimulating the overall release of dopamine. This is why alcohol is so easily addictive.


With continued alcohol consumption, these acute changes can shift to chronic changes over time.

Withdrawal from alcohol is often associated with Wernicke’s disease. Symptoms include issues with gait and eye movements. If this is left untreated or a person doesn’t stop abusing alcohol, Wernicke’s disease can progress. In its advanced state, Wernicke’s disease can turn into what is known as Korsakoff’s syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by memory loss and fabricated experiences.

Can The Damage Be Reversed?

Korsakoff’s syndrome is irreversible. But the brain is pretty resilient. Some research has found that continued abstinence from alcohol can promote some improvement in overall brain function. Through abstinence from alcohol, regular exercise, a good diet and mental stimulation, new brain cells can be formed through neurogenesis.

The Liver

The common lasting effects of alcoholism on the liver are pretty well known at this point. The liver can typically handle a small amount of alcohol at any given time. If a person drinks more than the liver can handle or drinks too quickly, the liver cells will physically struggle to process the alcohol.

Once alcohol reaches the liver, it produces a toxic enzyme called acetaldehyde. This enzyme damages liver cells and causes permanent scarring. Regular and heavy drinking for prolonged periods of time can strain and upset the way alcohol is metabolized in the body, leading to alcoholic liver disease.

The other physical effects of alcoholism on the liver include the following:



Steatosis is quite literally an accumulation of fat in the liver. It can often cause complications in cases of alcohol intoxication, obesity or hepatic disorders.

Alcoholic Hepatitis

Alcoholic hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver caused by drinking too much alcohol.


Cirrhosis (advanced liver disease) is chronic liver damage leading to scarring and ultimately liver failure.


Fibrosis is the formation of excess fibrous connective tissue in an organ or tissue. It can often interfere with or inhibit the function of the underlying organ or tissue. Liver fibrosis occurs when the healthy liver tissue becomes scarred and therefore cannot work as well. Fibrosis is often the first stage of liver scarring and can result in liver cirrhosis if left untreated.

Can The Damage Be Reversed?

Cirrhosis, otherwise known as advanced liver disease, is often irreversible if not fatal in alcoholics. As for other effects of alcohol abuse on the liver, depending on the length and severity of untreated alcoholism, as well as the damage already done, most, if not all can be reversed.

Researchers have found drinking coffee can cut down an alcoholic’s risk of cirrhosis and can even act as a buffer against the disease. Abstaining from alcohol can also reverse the damage done to the liver due to alcohol, depending on the extent of the damage. By abstaining, a person can normalize liver enzymes that become elevated due to excess alcohol.

The Pancreas

Found in the upper abdomen, the pancreas is a glandular organ that sits behind the stomach. It produces enzymes that break down food in the intestines and also helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Pancreatitis involves the inflammation of the pancreas and the damage of vital cells. Excessive drinking is a leading cause of pancreatitis.

There are two types of pancreatitis: acute and chronic. Both can be caused by heavy drinking.


Acute Pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis tends to come about quickly. It often lasts for a short time and doesn’t cause any lasting damage if the right treatment is received in a timely manner. However, acute pancreatitis can get severe. In these cases, enzymes from the pancreas slip into the bloodstream and can lead to more serious conditions, like kidney failure.

Chronic Pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis is when the pancreas becomes inflamed and remains in that state. In this case, the pancreas virtually stops working the way it’s supposed to. This means the body won’t be able to digest foods or make insulin. Both could lead to malnutrition and diabetes.

Can The Damage Be Reversed?

Effects of alcohol abuse on the pancreas can sometimes be irreversible.

When diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, you can reduce the risk of another attack and potentially developing chronic pancreatitis by eating a low-fat diet and ceasing alcohol use.

But if chronic pancreatitis develops, the pancreas will cease to work properly. The damage that has been done to the pancreas is irreversible and most will need to go on permanent medication in order to digest food and maintain blood sugar levels. While it is a painful condition, after years of treatment, many often see a decrease in pain.

The Heart

While moderate alcohol use (one to two drinks a day) can protect some people against heart disease, heavy drinking can cause serious heart problems. Long-term, heavy drinking can lead to the following health concerns, elevating your chances of having a stroke and/or heart disease:


High Blood Pressure

Drinking in excess causes an elevated blood pressure (hypertension), which is one of the most important risk factors when it comes to heart attacks and strokes.


Heavy drinking also weakens the heart muscle, meaning the heart can’t pump blood efficiently or effectively. This is known as cardiomyopathy and can often lead to death due to heart failure.


An irregular heartbeat, better known as arrhythmia, often comes about following episodes of heavy (binge) drinking within a 24-hour period.

Can The Damage Be Reversed?

Many of the above health concerns can be reduced or reversed by ceasing to drink alcohol or at least drinking in moderation. In fact, high blood pressure caused by alcohol is considered “rapidly reversible.”


Reverse the Effects of Alcoholism Today

Recovery from alcoholism is possible. Daylight Recovery Services is here to help. If you or someone you know is showing signs of alcohol addiction, the best method for treatment is through a trusted inpatient alcohol rehab center. Take the first step toward recovery and reach out today. Our experts are available for a free consultation at 1-833-2DAYLIGHT.