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If you were to watch any sporting event on television, you’re bound to watch a commercial for alcohol. Companies like Budweiser, Dos Equis, and Miller Lite spend billions of dollars a year getting you to buy their product. In fact, Anheuser-Busch spends more than $500 million a year on advertising alone.

Alcohol is a huge part of society. It’s commonly referred to as the social lubricant, since it can help people open up in social gatherings. Whether it’s a first date, backyard barbecues, happy hour with coworkers, or drinks with a client, there’s always a reason to drink alcohol.

The catch is, alcohol is technically a poison. It’s harmful to your body and too much alcohol (whether it’s a one night binge or thirty years of hard drinking) can kill you. What exactly is the effect of alcohol on the body and does it have any effect on your insurance premiums?

Alcohol and the Body

Just one sip of alcohol can linger in your body for two hours and it affects several parts of your body. The brain, the heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system are all affected by alcohol consumption. While it’s been said that red wine has health benefits, it’s still important to understand how alcohol interacts with your body.

Brain – Alcohol disrupts the brain’s ability to communicate with the rest of your body. This is why your mood and behavior changes as you drink alcohol. It can be difficult to concentrate while you’re drinking and your coordination and balance are also affected.

Heart – It doesn’t matter if you’re binging on alcohol for a night or drinking heavily for years, your heart can be hurt by alcohol consumption. You can experience cardiomyopathy, or the stretching and drooping of the heart muscle. Alcohol can also trigger heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), high blood pressure, and even stroke.

Liver – The liver is what detoxifies chemicals in your body and is very important while you’re drinking alcohol. But alcohol can be hard on your liver and cause conditions like steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Cirrhosis of the liver is perhaps the most common ailment when it comes to poor liver health. Cirrhosis is when healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue, preventing blood flow through the liver. This is commonly caused by alcohol abuse. Cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death.

Pancreas – The pancreas is an organ that produces important hormones and assists with digestion. When alcohol is consumed, the pancreas can create toxic substances that can lead to pancreatitis. This ailment causes swelling of the blood vessels and can prevent proper digestion.

Does Health Insurance Cover Alcoholism?

According to the Affordable Care Act, addiction treatment is one of the ten essential health benefits. Therefore alcoholics and the necessary treatments for alcoholics are covered by health insurance. You no longer can be denied health insurance for receiving treatment. However, like any other health insurance plan, not all plans are created equal.

Most plans that offer mental, behavioral, and addiction services do so with out-of-pocket costs. You’ll need to check with your insurance provider what doctors are in-network, what services are covered, and the costs associated with these services.

There is no escaping exposure to alcohol in your everyday life. It’s everywhere. But that’s not an excuse for alcohol abuse. Alcohol has real consequences on the body. Be sure you’re aware of how alcohol affects your body in the short-term and what the long-term repercussions are as well. It’s important to be responsible when drinking alcohol, your health depends on it.

Image Courtesy of Wil Stewart

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