As a rule, most of us have a pretty good idea of the sorts of things we should do—and should not do—to maintain our physical and mental health. We understand, for example, the importance of a nutritious diet, of getting enough sleep, and of exercising regularly.
But understanding something is not the same as putting that something into practice. That is certainly the case when it comes to drinking and smoking. By and large, we all know that these activities can be harmful to our bodies and brains, but many people do an excellent job of keeping that sort of information sequestered away from themselves. If they don’t think about the dangers of drinking and smoking, maybe those dangers will pass them by. This way of thinking is simply a variation on the silly idea that if I can’t see you, you can’t see me.
Again, most everyone (except maybe babies) knows that ignoring potential dangers does not make those dangers go away. Still, it is a very common way to approach the world—especially when we want to do something that we really should not do.
We get it. But we also want to remind you of the potential impacts of drinking and smoking on your brain and body. Maybe some fresh awareness of the dangers will nudge you in a better direction.
A Head-to-Toe Look at the Dangers of Drinking and Smoking
The Brain: Drinking decreases your level of alertness while also impairing your judgment and limiting your ability to concentrate.
The Face: Smoking can lead to premature wrinkles and give your skin a grayish tone, making you look much older than you actually are.
The Heart: Smoking is hard on your circulatory system and can lead to various heart-related issues. Meanwhile, excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, and irregular heart rhythms. None of those conditions resulting from smoking or drinking have any upside for your heart.
The Lungs: Damage to the lungs is probably the first thing people think of when they call to mind the dangers of smoking. Smoking can lead to lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and more.
The Liver: If we associate lung problems with smoking, we most frequently associate liver issues with drinking. Cirrhosis (or scarring) of the liver is an effect of long-term drinking.
The Genitals: Both smoking and drinking can have negative consequences for your sexual function. For example, smoking can lead to the blunting of sexual response. It can also negatively impact fertility in both women and men. Alcohol can also negatively affect sexual response—while also increasing the likelihood of sexual risk-taking and the danger of sexual assault.
The Knees, Ankles, and Toes (and other joints, too): Drinking and smoking can both worsen the symptoms of arthritis. Smoking, for example, impacts bone, cartilage, and the body’s natural healing processes. Because of this, smokers are more likely to experience debilitating symptoms of arthritis. Meanwhile, drinking—even in moderation—can increase the likeliness of a recurrence of gout, a particularly painful form of arthritis.
It is important to remember that all of these physical effects of drinking and smoking are likely to undermine your mental health as well. Good physical and mental health go hand in hand, so drinking and smoking are a danger to both.
When You Are Ready to Quit, We Are Ready to Help
At The Aviary Recovery Center, we are in the business of helping individuals effectively address substance use and mental health disorders in order to enable long-term sobriety. We offer medically supervised detoxification, a robust rehabilitation program (that includes group and individual therapy), and a continuum of care that will help you navigate the challenging early days of recovery.
As we have noted, it can be all too easy to find ways to ignore or deny the negative impacts of drugs or alcohol. But doing so can have devastating consequences. It is far better to face the difficult truths of your situation so that you can change it for the better. At our facility near St. Louis, Missouri, you will find support without judgment as well as a commitment to personalized approaches to care. We know no two individuals have identical needs, and so we listen intently and create treatment programs designed to address the specific needs of each person we treat.
If you are ready to face the facts about the ways in which drugs or alcohol are undermining your well-being, we are ready to help you reshape your reality by regaining—and maintaining—your sobriety.