Sober living

10 Effects of Alcohol on the Body

Most people are aware of the side effects that alcohol can have on their bodies in the short term. However, frequent use and binge drinking can lead to myriad health-related issues in the longer-term. Unhealthy eating habits – from the over consumption of sugars and fats to the under consumption of critical vitamins and minerals – are common among excessive drinkers and can lead to gum disease. Bad breath – caused by rotting teeth and infected gums – is one of the clear signs that someone may struggle with alcoholism.

  • At this point, some patients may benefit from a liver transplant if they meet certain criteria.
  • Women tend to develop liver disease faster than men, despite consuming the same amount of alcohol over the same length of time.
  • Long-term heavy drinkers are much more likely to get illnesses like pneumonia and tuberculosis.
  • In rarer cases, alcoholism can cause blindness brought on by optic nerve damage.
  • The body absorbs alcohol relatively quickly, but it takes longer to get the alcohol out of the body.

Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for one-third of all driving fatalities in 2019. The consequences of underage drinking include unintentional injuries; sexual assaults; alcohol overdose; and deaths, including motor vehicle crashes. Rapid or irregular heart rate is common among people who frequently drink.

Alcoholic Liver Disease Treatment

Whether you or a loved one is experiencing the short- or long-term effects of alcohol abuse, there is help available. Blood alcohol concentration increases upon ingestion of alcohol. Soon after, the acute side effects begin to take place, which can result in depression of central nervous system activity. While the effects are dose-dependent, this can lead to compromised motor skills, decreased coordination, delayed reactions, diminished judgment, and impaired balance (3,9).

To your body, alcohol is a toxin that interrupts your immune system’s ability to do its job, thereby compromising its function. The treatment of alcohol dependency involves a variety of interventions, and it requires medical, social, and family support. Signs and symptoms of withdrawal generally occur between 4 and 72 hours after the last drink or after reducing intake. If blood alcohol concentration is higher than 0.4, there is a 50 percent chance of death.


How quickly alcohol is absorbed depends on how quickly the stomach empties its contents into the intestines. If you eat a meal, especially one containing fat, before drinking, alcohol absorption will be considerably slower than drinking on an empty stomach and your blood alcohol level will be lower. This may be because the water in beer and wine creates more volume to drink compared with an equal amount of alcohol in hard liquor. Although alcohol affects different people in different ways, in general, it is quickly absorbed from your digestive system into your blood.

Past research suggested that alcohol raises HDL, the “good” cholesterol, and that resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes (and red wine), has heart-protective properties. Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks within two hours for women and five or more drinks within two hours for men. However, eating a healthy diet and being physically active have much greater health benefits and have been more extensively studied. Reach out to a treatment provider for free today for immediate assistance. Drinking alcohol on a regular basis can also lead to dependence, which means your body and brain have grown used to alcohol’s effects.

Liver Damage

You might not link a cold to a night of drinking, but there might be a connection. Alcohol puts the brakes on your body’s defenses, or immune system. Your body can’t make the numbers of white blood cells it needs to fight germs. So for 24 hours after drinking too much, you’re more likely to get sick.

The mild form can last for years and lead to more liver damage, unless the patient stops drinking. Severe alcoholic hepatitis occurs suddenly, usually after binge drinking, and it can be life-threatening. The only way to possibly prevent this hepatitis from worsening and improving life expectancy is to stop drinking.

Long-term heavy drinkers are much more likely to get illnesses like pneumonia and tuberculosis. Alcohol makes you dehydrated and makes blood vessels in your body and brain expand. Your stomach wants to get rid of the toxins and acid that alcohol churns up, which gives you nausea and vomiting. And because your liver was so busy processing your drinks, it didn’t release enough sugar into your blood, bringing on weakness and the shakes. Chronic drinking can affect your heart and lungs, raising your risk of developing heart-related health issues. Many people assume the occasional beer or glass of wine at mealtimes or special occasions doesn’t pose much cause for concern.

In addition, many older people take prescribed and over-the-counter (OTC) medications that may interact with alcohol. The slower reaction times and problems with seeing and hearing put older people who are intoxicated at higher risk for falls and traffic accidents. People older than age 65 who drink alcohol should limit themselves to no more than 1 drink a day. Because alcohol is effects of alcohol on the body a depressant, it can also contribute to mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression. Research indicates that heavy alcohol use can also increase the risk of suicide. The short-term effects of alcohol consumption range from a decrease in anxiety and motor skills at lower doses to unconsciousness, anterograde amnesia, and central nervous system depression at higher doses.

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Anyone who suddenly develops an intolerance may be advised to see a doctor, in case there is an underlying condition. Since alcohol is a depressant, it can slow the breathing, leading to a lack of oxygen to the brain. Intoxication impairs judgment and can result in inappropriate and illegal behaviors such as sexual promiscuity, disorderly conduct, driving while intoxicated and acts of violence. Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. It is expressed as the weight of ethanol in grams per 100 milliliter (ml) of blood.

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