In the United States, alcohol is used more than any other substance on a basis ranging from light to heavy use.
While many illegal drugs have a reputation for being dangerous and harmful, alcohol also has many negative effects that impact a larger portion of the population.
Alcohol affects the body and the brain and can lead to damage to internal organs. Drinking alcohol can have many negative long-term effects if alcohol consumption goes unchecked.
Mental Effects Of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol intake affects your brain in a variety of ways that are quickly noticeable, depending on the number of alcoholic drinks you consume and how high of a tolerance you have developed for alcohol use.
These effects can be mild and can resolve quickly or they can be severe and take several hours to resolve.
Binge drinking will affect the brain with immediate and severe results, whereas heavy drinking over a long period of time will affect the brain in other ways.
How Alcohol Affects The Brain
Depending on the degree of alcohol consumption, alcohol can affect the brain in ways that impair gross and fine motor coordination.
Effects of alcohol consumption on the brain can include:
- slow reaction times
- blurred vision
- slurred speech
- difficulty walking
Heavy drinking over a short period of time, especially on an empty stomach, can also affect your memory, producing periods of time called a blackout.
During blackouts, the person who is drinking cannot remember what happened or what they did. This can lead to risky or endangering behavior that can include sex with an unknown partner or even illegal actions.
Also called hallucinosis, alcohol-induced psychosis can occur after a period of heavy drinking, long-term alcohol dependence, or as a result of withdrawal.
There can be many different symptoms associated with these conditions, but with alcohol-induced psychosis, people experience hallucinations or delusions.
Excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of a brain condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This effects the person’s brain as it relates to memory preservation and the nervous system.
Also known as wet brain, Wernick-Korsakoff syndrome occurs when the person’s brain doesn’t receive enough vitamin B1, often due to prolonged alcohol abuse. Left untreated, this can cause permanent damage to the brain.
While alcohol-related dementia is not actually a type of dementia, it is similar in that it causes a significant loss of memory. Memory loss caused by long-term alcohol use is a result of direct brain damage.
How Alcohol Affects The Body
Alcohol effects on the body can be damaging and extend beyond alcohol poisoning.
From withdrawing from alcohol use to heavy drinking over a long period of time, alcohol can affect everything from weight gain to your immune system.
Alcohol Shakes And Tremors
Experiencing tremors or shaking after stopping alcohol use is a common symptom of the early stages of alcohol withdrawal. Even people who practice moderate drinking can have these symptoms (though they may resolve quickly).
Other symptoms that go with tremors can include:
Alcohol Abuse And Weight Gain
For nearly 30 years, the scientific community has noticed a connection between alcohol use disorder and obesity.
People who binge drink have a high risk of weight gain along with people who abuse alcohol regularly. Some studies have even found that light drinking is associated with weight gain.
Alcohol Skin Rash
Some people experience negative symptoms of alcohol use right away. Some can develop a skin rash after drinking alcohol almost immediately.
Other symptoms can include:
- rapid heartbeat
These symptoms are typically associated with certain genes and often result in a decreased tendency to use alcohol among those who have that gene makeup.
Alcohol’s Effect On The Immune System
Alcohol can also affect the immune system by dampening its ability to respond to infectious diseases making personal healthcare problematic.
Even drinking heavily on a single occasion can make it easier for diseases such as cold or flu to affect your body. People with alcohol use disorders are more likely to contract diseases like pneumonia or tuberculosis.
Behavioral Effects Of Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol use has an immediate effect on your behavior. Initially, it can result in a lowering of inhibitions that makes you feel able to talk to people or do things you wouldn’t normally do.
But as you continue to consume heavy amounts of alcohol, it can result in those inhibitions being dangerously lowered. People who consume too much alcohol can become volatile and angry.
Other people who are addicted to alcohol experience mental health problems. They become morose and despondent to the point of being in danger of self-harm.
Short-Term Effects Of Alcohol Addiction
A person may experience the short-term effects of alcohol predominantly through the hangover.
Experiencing a hangover is a common result of drinking too much the night before and is a commonly understood result of heavy alcohol use.
Symptoms of a hangover can include:
- disrupted sleep in spite of falling asleep quickly
- stomach irritation leading to nausea and vomiting (which can lead to ulcers)
- inflammation (the feeling of being sick)
Hangovers can also cause more severe symptoms such as exposure to acetaldehyde as well as a kind of mini-withdrawal.
The liver produces acetaldehyde when it metabolizes alcohol.
This compound is a toxic byproduct and results in inflammation occurring not only in the liver but also in the:
- digestive system (which can be another cause of nausea and vomiting)
- other internal organs
The mini-withdrawal results from the brain’s attempt to compensate for the euphoria that alcohol induces in the person who consumes it.
When you drink, you tend to feel relaxed and free of inhibitions, but when you are hungover you feel the symptoms of withdrawal such as restlessness and anxiety.
Long-Term Effects Of Alcohol Use
The long-term effects of alcohol use have been associated with many harmful and ultimately fatal health conditions, including increased cancer risk.
One of the most commonly known health problems of heavy alcohol use over long periods of time is liver disease.
Chronic alcohol use can result in:
- alcoholic hepatitis
- alcoholic fatty liver disease
Alcohol can harm the pancreas through toxins released by the liver. This can inflame blood vessels in the pancreas to dangerous levels resulting in pancreatitis.
Studies have also shown a clear connection between heavy alcohol consumption and increased risk for certain cancers that affect the esophagus, liver, colon, and rectum.
Treatment Options For Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol use disorder is treatable through medication-assisted treatment (MAT) that controls dangerous withdrawal symptoms and evidence-based therapy.
These two approaches, along with alcohol detox if needed, are critical in treating alcohol addiction.
Find Alcohol Addiction Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
You or your loved one can find freedom from the damaging effects of alcohol use. Find treatment today through the myriad of treatment options at Bedrock Recovery Center.
Call our helpline and let us help you find a treatment center in your area.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update
- National Center for Biotechnology Information — Alcohol Related Psychosis
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — ALCOHOL'S DAMAGING EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Alcohol Facts and Statistics
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Alcohol's Effects on the Body
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Hangovers
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism — Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — Alcohol | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Alcohol use disorder
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.