The Effects of Alcohol Use
- Table of ContentsPrint
- Short-term Effects of Alcohol
- Side Effects
- Long-Term Effects of Alcohol
- Alcohol Dependence
- Withdrawal Treatment
Enjoying alcohol in moderation is not just "not bad" for you, but it may have health benefits that could prolong your life. It is when people use alcohol as an escape route for social, personal or career pressures that abuse or alcoholism can result. Abuse of alcohol, or consumption of more alcohol than the body can handle, can lead to liver damage and other debilitating conditions. Alcohol abuse can also lead to alcoholism—diagnosed as alcohol use disorder in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5)—or alcohol addiction, in which a person becomes physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol to the point that he or she cannot function without it. Alcohol abuse and addiction can also lead to destructive behavior such as driving under the influence of alcohol and domestic violence.
Not everyone who uses alcohol or even abuses it is at risk for alcoholism. While abuse of alcohol to mask depression and other symptoms of mental illness is a warning sign for alcoholism, as well as a sign that a patient needs help, alcoholism is a disease in and of itself, and it may have a genetic component.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 50.9 percent of American adults consumed at least one drink a month in 2010, and the CDC defines these adults as regular drinkers. Few of these regular drinkers will go on to abuse alcohol, and even fewer will become alcoholics, but help is available for those whose drinking does increase to a point that it becomes dangerous.
Alcoholism is a treatable condition, and if you or someone you love needs to find help for alcoholism, we are here to provide that help. Please contact our toll-free, no-obligation alcoholism recovery hotline at 1-800-943-0566 to find out about options such as detox centers, rehab centers and residential treatment centers that can help you or someone you care about overcome alcoholism and its physical and psychological effects.
Alcohol Effects question 1
Short-term Effects of Alcohol
Most adults will experience no detrimental effects from one or two servings of alcohol a day. A serving is a four-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce can of beer or a 1.5-ounce shot of 40-proof hard liquor. This level of consumption may even decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia.
Short-term effects of doses of alcohol above that safe level, which differs for people depending upon weight and whether they consume on an empty stomach, begin with relaxation and reduced inhibitions. While these effects may be pleasant, they then progress to lowered concentration, lowered reflex and response time and poor coordination, all of which result from a slowdown in the activity of the brain.
Alcohol Effects question 2
When people drink excessively, they can experience a high that is commonly referred to as drunkenness, which includes:
- Slurring of speech
- Emotional changes
- Sleep disruption
- Lowering of body temperature
Short-term effects of alcohol consumed in higher doses include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
- Blackouts, in which a drinker does not remember what happened while he or she was drinking
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Coma and death
Any short-term effect of alcohol can be amplified when alcohol is consumed in conjunction with other mind-alterinxg substances including both legal and illegal drugs. People who are using medication for pain or treatment of psychological conditions should not even consume alcohol in moderation without consulting their doctors.
Alcohol Effects question 3
The side effects of alcohol include the hangover, in which headaches, nausea and vomiting continue after a drinker is no longer actually intoxicated or experiencing the alcohol high. Weight gain and high blood pressure can result from repeated overconsumption of alcohol, and long-term overconsumption of alcohol can raise the risk for depression, liver damage, cancer and the depression of the immune system. Reduced sexual performance is also a side effect of overconsumption of alcohol.
Do not let alcohol abuse damage your health or the health of someone you love. Repeated or regular overconsumption could be a sign of alcoholism, and we are here to help you find solutions to alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Call our toll-free recovery resource hotline at 1-800-943-0566 for free, no-obligation information about alcohol addiction treatment at any time of day or night.
Alcohol Effects question 4
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol
Long-term overconsumption of alcohol causes death of brain cells, which can lead to brain disorders as well as a lowered level of mental or physical function. Liver damage from alcohol can result in cirrhosis, a severe medical condition that can require a liver transplant to treat. Statistics from the Center for Disease Control show that in 2009, there were 15,183 deaths in the United States as a result of alcohol-induced liver disease. Long-term overconsumption of alcohol can cause pancreatitis, a very dangerous inflammation of the pancreas, and it can also cause nerve damage.
Tolerance, a long-term effect of alcohol in which the body becomes accustomed to higher and higher doses of alcohol after a long period of overconsumption, This makes it possible for long-term drinkers to consume amounts of alcohol that are dangerous without experiencing short-term effects that might otherwise convince them to stop. Tolerance can lead to dependence and then to addiction or alcoholism in some individuals.
If you or someone you love has been drinking too much for too long, please call our toll-free alcohol abuse and addiction hotline at 1-800-943-0566, so we can recommend ways to help. There is never any fee or obligation for our services, and you can call us 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Alcohol Effects question 5
Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism, occurs when the body cannot function without alcohol. Alcohol affects certain neurotransmitters in the brain. When the brain becomes accustomed to the way that alcohol affects these brain chemicals, it can no longer send proper signals to the rest of the body without the presence of alcohol. Once a drinker is dependent on alcohol, he or she will continue to drink regardless of any serious physical symptoms caused by alcohol. In addition, a person who has developed alcohol dependence will continue to drink even if he or she suffers social or personal circumstances such as the loss of a job or career, breakup of personal relationships, or arrests for behavior related to alcohol consumption.
Alcohol dependence is a physical disorder that requires medical treatment, as attempts to withdraw alcohol from a dependent patient will lead to unpleasant and even potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Medical treatment for alcohol dependence is known as detoxification, or detox, and it is followed by inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation treatment and therapy that helps patients avoid future alcohol abuse. For more information on how to help someone addicted to Alcohol, give us a call.
Alcohol Effects question 6
Treatment to reduce the impact of withdrawal symptoms is the first step toward recovery from alcoholism. Treatment at an inpatient detox center or residential treatment center may include use of benzodiazepine tranquilizers in order to mitigate the uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Once a patient is physically stable and no longer feels intense cravings for alcohol, therapy that addresses the causes of his or her alcoholism can begin.
In a residential rehab center, intensive counseling and therapy that helps patients find positive ways of dealing with the stress and pressures that led them to abuse alcohol begins as soon as the acute detoxification process is over. Residential treatment programs lasting from 30 days including detox to 90 days and beyond are available at rehab centers that are located in pleasant surroundings where patients can focus solely on recovery. Once the inpatient phase of treatment is complete, counselors at these centers encourage patients to continue treatment with outpatient addiction professionals as well as by joining self-help support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
If you or someone you love is addicted to alcohol, you are not alone, and there is help available. According to the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, most admissions to rehabilitation facilities in 2008 were for alcoholism (23 percent), followed by alcoholism combined with addiction to other substances (18.3 percent). Please call our toll-free rehabilitation information hotline at 1-800-943-0566 at any time of day or night, so we can help you find the treatment program that is right for you or your loved one. There is no charge or obligation for our advice.