“Alcohol abuse made our bones crumble”
The influence that alcohol can have on human behaviour and health is frightening. A world without alcohol would likely mean a world with less illness, premature death, domestic abuse, violent crime, road accidents and a whole host of other problems.
Common alcohol-related physical and mental health problems include depression, anxiety, heart disease, and liver cirrhosis. But one issue that is rarely talked about is the impact that regular, excessive alcohol consumption can have on our bones.
It’s a calcium thing
Most of us have heard of osteoporosis – a condition that weakens bones, making them more likely to fracture – but how many of us knew that heavy drinking over a sustained period can seriously accelerate skeletal fragility? This happens because drinking can prevent enough calcium reaching our bones.
Arms, legs, hips, shoulders, collarbones and even skulls can deteriorate over time, if regular alcohol abuse takes place.
“When my GP explained to me that my bones were beginning to crumble as a result of drinking, compounded by advancement in age, I was profoundly shocked. I’d never heard of such a thing.”
Julia had written over 20 novels as well as numerous short story collections before having to give up writing altogether, because of the weakness in her hands and wrists.
“Being forced to give up creative writing was like being told my life was over,” Julia says. “If I’d have known that drinking heavily was going to eventually lead to me stopping writing, I’d have poured all those bottles of wine and gin down the sink long ago. Too late now.”
Julia’s story is heartbreaking. But she is not alone. Every year across the UK, countless people have to give up a much-loved job or a pastime because of problems with the bones in their hands or in other areas of the body.
“I used to be so active,” 30 year old Karina explains. “My family and friends used to joke that I didn’t need a flat or a house as I always seemed to be out and about: down the gym, at the swimming baths or at Jujitsu classes held in my local community centre. And when I wasn’t exercising like mad, I’d be out on the town, dancing, partying, drinking and having a great time with my friends and a few of the people I am close to at work.
“One day I noticed a pain in my right hand. A few weeks later, my left hand and both my feet felt weak, achy and painful all the time. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had back trouble and got tired unusually quickly, meaning I’d have to sit down a lot. I couldn’t continue in my job and was signed off from work by my GP who diagnosed an alcohol-influenced bone marrow problem that needed specialist assessment and treatment.”
The best way to avoid premature bone deterioration through alcohol abuse is, of course, to stop drinking as soon as possible.
But don’t make the mistake of rushing the process.
Alcohol addiction treatment
Some people who try to quit alcohol abruptly can end up relapsing within a short period of time. Maintaining a sensible, measured approach to giving up alcohol (or at least reducing the amount you drink each week to a more moderate level), is best achieved with professional guidance. If you commit to a treatment programme, and take advantage of post-treatment support (find out about aftercare), you could look forward to a healthier, more fulfilling and happier life.
*All names have been changed to protect patient confidentiality.