The Effects of Alcohol On the Lungs

The Effects of Alcohol On the Lungs

How Does Alcohol Consumption Contribute to Lung Health?

Alcohol can have toxic effects on many of the body’s organs. While alcohol misuse is most commonly associated with the liver, abuse can easily cause issues in other parts of the body as well. For example, many different lung diseases and injuries may stem from alcohol abuse. 

The Risks of Drinking Heavily

The reason that alcohol affects the body so greatly is because abuse decreases your body’s ability to fight off bacteria. Therefore, if you drink heavily, you may be at a higher risk for infections or organ damage. The main organs that could be susceptible to this damage are your lungs.
Male radiologist looking at lungs radiography, view over the shoulder

What Does Alcohol Do to the Lungs?

Alcohol abuse can either cause lung damage or cause it to worsen over time. Alcohol-induced lung damage is most common among heavy drinkers or people who have been drinking regularly for an extended period of time. However, this damage can affect any chronic drinker. Age and previous health status are not large determining factors.
Primarily, the effects of alcohol can lead to lung inflammation. This inflammation can cause a suite of injuries and diseases in the lungs. Additionally, alcohol decreases the body’s levels of nitric oxide. When the body doesn’t have enough nitric oxide, the lungs aren’t protected against harmful bacteria.

Lung Damage From Alcohol Abuse

The following issues may be triggered or worsened by the use or abuse of alcohol:
  • Acute lung injury – typically following a serious incident; alcohol makes lungs more susceptible to injury due to bacteria exposure
  • ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) – a fatal response to lung inflammation, fluid build-up, and pneumonia
  • Pneumonia – lung infection caused by spread of bacteria
  • Other lung complications – Alcoholic lung disease, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), worsened asthma, tuberculosis, etc.
Essentially, the bacteria that alcohol exposes the lungs to may be responsible for many different types of lung complications. However, not everyone who consumes alcohol will experience these problems.

How Can You Prevent Alcohol-Induced Lung Damage?

The most obvious way to prevent alcohol-related lung damage is to not drink alcohol. Especially if you currently have a lung disease or injury, it would be best to avoid alcohol altogether. If you do decide to drink, try to keep track of your consumption. Do not consume or expose yourself to cigarette/tobacco smoke if you drink alcohol and/or have any lung-related issues. If you have a history of lung issues and are thinking about starting medication, talk to your doctor about interactions before deciding on the next step.

Treating the Lungs After Damage From Alcohol

If you or a loved one is experiencing any signs of lung damage that were caused or increased by alcohol, it’s important to stop drinking as soon as possible and seek out alcohol abuse treatment. Alcohol abuse treatment in a rehabilitation facility will allow individuals to recover from withdrawal and begin their journey toward sobriety in a new and refreshing environment.
If you have any questions about alcohol’s effect on the body, our team of substance abuse treatment and medical professionals are available to answer them. Give us a call at 267.209.7313 for more details about the possible risks of alcohol abuse & how to seek treatment.


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