The complications of drinking alcohol more than the prescribed limits can be catastrophic to your body’s health. The effects of alcohol abuse impact are such that it destroys the life of a person dependent on alcohol in all possible ways – socially, psychologically, and health-wise.

Some consequences can be short-term as in occasional drinkers who on occasion drink beyond the prescribed safety limits.

Long-term effects on health are seen in persons who suffer from alcoholism and who are addicted and dependent on alcohol. These are more serious with a lasting negative impact on the body systems.

These effects progress and worsen with continued indulgence in alcohol and the prognosis is bad if the individual does not stop drinking and take treatment.

As the person is essentially dependent on alcohol, he finds it difficult to control his drinking. The organs affected such as the liver, brain, and heart suffer from progressive damage.

Alcoholism or alcohol abuse is classified as a chronic disease. It destroys the finances, physical life, mental health, family and social life, and job status of the alcohol-dependent person.

Besides, his life is constantly accompanied by domestic aggression, car accidents, and physical fights. He faces a ruined reputation and loss of self-esteem.

Alcohol’s long-term negative effects on our health spread throughout our body systems, affecting the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, and more. If control is not exercised, the alcoholic faces death.

While ethanol, the main psychoactive ingredient in alcohol makes you intoxicated, the negative effects of alcohol on the body could be due to acetaldehyde, a major toxic metabolite. This is the ultimate product that alcohol is metabolized to.

Acetaldehyde is toxic and is known to damage the DNA and promote mutagenesis (the production of genetic mutations). It is this property that makes alcohol capable of causing cancer.

Drinking effects vary according to the amount of alcohol consumed and the duration and intensity of the drinking habit. The impact, therefore, on the individual can be short-term and long-term.

Short-term effects appear within a short time of consuming alcohol and their intensity depends on the number of drinks consumed. Drinking excessive alcohol regularly, such as in chronic alcoholism, causes long-health term effects on the body.

Short-term effects of alcohol use

Short-term effects depend on how much alcohol you have consumed in one session.

1. Effects of having one to two drinks of alcohol

  • Some people become talkative and jolly while some fall silent
  • A feeling of being relaxed
  • A sense of confidence creeps in

2. Effects of drinking two to three drinks

  • More talkative and confident
  • Self-praise is abundant
  • Reduced inhibition
  • Loss of judgment
  • Impaired movements

3. Effects of drinking three to five drinks

  • Loss of balance
  • Slurred speech
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Impaired vision
  • Unstable emotions ranging from aggression to crying

4. Effects of drinking 6 to 10 drinks

  • Inability to walk
  • Sleepy
  • Very slurred speech
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Heavy breathing
  • Inability to remember events
  • Possible loss of consciousness

5. Effects of drinking more than 10 drinks

This causes alcohol poisoning in which the blood level of alcohol rises very high and is defined as poisonous or toxic.

  • Comatose condition
  • Possible death

Risks of alcohol intoxication

Besides the side effects of alcohol mentioned above, alcohol intoxication causes other complications not related to health. They include:

  • driving accidents
  • drowning accidents
  • domestic crimes
  • social crimes
  • decreased efficiency at work or studies
  • falls
  • fire injuries

Long-Term effects of alcohol abuse

Long-term effects are those seen after years of chronic excessive drinking as in people with alcohol abuse disorder.

Some of these side effects are serious, and if control and treatment are not exercised, the progression of these problems can result in certain death.

1. Effects on the brain and the nervous system

There is damage to the brain resulting in dementia. Dementia is the loss of brain function leading to impairment of memory, speech, cognitive function, adverse behavior, and confusion.

Neuritis and nerve damage develop leading to muscle weakness,  incoordination, tremors of the legs, and even muscle atrophy.

Wernicke–Kosakoff Syndrome can occur because of vitamin B1 deficiency caused by alcohol and which can cause psychiatric disorders like depression and suicidal tendencies, vision disturbances, nystagmus, which is back and forth movements of the eyes, and impaired and double vision.

2. Delirium tremens

Delirium tremens is an acute episode of delirium, which is seen usually 72 hours after stopping alcohol.

Symptoms include seizures, tremors, nausea and vomiting, fast heartbeat, and hallucinations. If untreated, this condition can lead to death.

3. Increased risk of cancer

Regular and heavy use of alcohol increases the risk of cancer, especially of the mouth, esophagus, larynx, breast, liver, colon, and rectum.

Oral cancers are six times more common in alcohol drinkers than in non-drinkers. It is not just the heavy drinkers that are exposed to this risk. Even drinking small amounts increases your risk. However, the more you drink, the more is the risk.

To minimize this risk, don’t drink. But, if you drink restrict yourself to

  • An average of 10 standard drinks a week – no more
  • And, only 4 standard drinks in one session – no more

One standard drink is 30mL (one nip) of spirits or 285mL (one middy) of normal-strength beer

4. Effects of alcohol on the digestive tract

  • Bleeding from the esophageal varices
  • Alcohol hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver
  • Pancreatitis
  • Ulcer
  • Gall stones
  • Malnourishment due to poor absorption of nutrients

5. Effects of alcohol on the cardiovascular system and heart

6. Effect of alcohol on bones

Alcohol interferes with the balance of calcium and the production of vitamin D in the body. Both these nutrients are vital for bone health.

Long-term use of alcohol will weaken your bones and increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. There is a decrease in bone density, which increases the risk of bone fracture. Fractures caused may also take a longer time to heal.

Heavy alcohol use can increase inflammation in the body, which causes joint pain, stiffness, and joint fatigue.

7. Alcohol’s effect on sexual function

Alcoholism causes erectile dysfunction and loss of fertility. Heavy use of alcohol also reduces your testosterone levels and lowers your libido.

Women who drink too much may also have menstruating problems, which can lower their fertility.

8. Effect of alcohol on diabetes

Excess alcohol intake increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

While modest amounts of alcohol may cause blood sugar to rise, excess alcohol use can reduce your blood sugar level sometimes to dangerous levels, especially for people with type 1 diabetes. This can lead to hypoglycemia.

The liver has extra glucose reserves, which it releases when the blood sugar levels drop. Alcohol interferes with the liver function of releasing this extra glucose and prevents the fallen sugar levels to rise.

Beer and sweet wine, however, contain carbohydrates and this may raise your blood sugar.

 9. Effect of alcohol on menstruation

In women, alcohol causes menstruation irregularities. Alcohol temporarily increases levels of estrogen and testosterone, which interferes with the normal hormonal variations that bring about ovulation. This causes your periods to become irregular. It can also cause you to miss periods.

10. Effect of alcohol during pregnancy

Exposure to high alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause severe physical and mental defects in the newborn. This is called fetal alcohol syndrome.

Pregnant women who drink increase the chances of premature delivery, miscarriage, and stillbirth.

11. Alcohol effect on the immune system

Heavy drinking weakens your immune system and your ability to fight back diseases. It disrupts the immune pathways in various complex ways impairing the body’s ability to fight off infections.

Drinking in excess can reduce the number of white blood cells (especially monocytes) that fight off viruses, bacteria, and other infections in your body.