Does Your Liver Recover After Years of Alcohol Abuse? | Stepaway Blog
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Does Your Liver Recover After Years of Alcohol Abuse?

A casual drink every now and then will likely have little to no effect on your health. This is why moderate drinking is always encouraged if alcohol cannot be abstained from completely.

However, excessive alcohol consumption over a long period of time can have severely damaging effects on your overall health, and especially your liver.

But the question is: can the liver repair itself after years of drinking?

In this article, we discuss the effects alcohol has on the liver and whether or not the liver can return to its full function if someone stops drinking.

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Effects of Alcohol on the Liver

Alcohol is toxic to the liver, regardless of how much you drink. Although the liver naturally has enzymes that help digest and process alcohol, these enzymes can still die off due to how alcohol can damage them. With a reduced number of enzymes, the liver begins to take strain and more time in between drinking episodes is required for the liver to fully recover.

Alcohol related liver disease (ARLD) is the term used to refer to the damage done to the liver by alcohol. There are various stages of ARLD, each with different symptoms and recovery processes – all of which depend on how much alcohol a person consumes and for how long.

Stages of Alcohol Related Liver Disease

There are three stages to ARLD, and the general rule of thumb is that the more alcohol you consume, the more this disease progresses.

Each stage of ARLD presents with its own set of symptoms and levels of severity:

Alcohol Fatty Liver Disease

Although there are rarely noticeable symptoms at this stage, this is a warning sign that you are drinking too much.

Alcohol Hepatitis

Often the first time that someone becomes aware of the fact that they have alcohol related liver damage and can be a potentially serious condition.


The last stage where the liver has become severely scarred due to excessive consumption of alcohol.

Early Signs of Liver Damage due to Alcohol Consumption

Although symptoms are minor during the first two stages of ARLD, the following are potential symptoms that can be noticed:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Discomfort in the upper right abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting

Can a Damaged Liver Repair Itself?

Thankfully, there is a chance that the liver is able to repair itself in people who are in the early stages of ARLD. The liver is a self-healing organ like the skin and can regenerate and repair itself if some cells have been damaged.

However, this requires the person to stop drinking alcohol early enough in the stages of ARLD. It’s possible to reverse the effects of ARLD within a few days to a few months. The time it takes for the liver to repair itself will depend on how severe the condition is.

It’s extremely important to note that the liver is unable to repair cirrhosis. Once diagnosed with cirrhosis, there is no turning back, and the damage done to the liver at this stage is permanent.

People with cirrhosis who do not stop drinking have less than 50% chance of surviving for longer than 5 years as this stage of ARLD can cause liver cancer, liver failure, and more.

Prevention is Better than Cure

Although ARLD can be treated during it’s early stages, it is still always better to prevent it. Avoiding all three stages of this progressive disease can be done by drinking moderately and within the recommended limits.

Step Away – Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Centre South Africa

We offer inpatient and outpatient treatment programmes for people who are struggling with varying degrees of drug and alcohol abuse.

Visit our website to find out more about our various programmes, therapies and addiction treatments and feel free to contact us for more information.

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