Alcohol Effects


What are the long and the short term effects of alcohol consumption?

The effects of alcohol are widespread and consist of relatively mild effects at one extreme and unhealthy and devastating effects at the other.

One of the important short term alcohol effects is that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.

This fact runs counter to the claims made by various individuals that stimulation is one of the short term effects of alcohol.

In small quantities, alcohol results in a mild euphoria and typically removes inhibitions.

These are a few of the common psychological short term effects of alcohol consumption.

In excessive quantities, however, alcohol can lead to a number of drinking problems such as alcohol poisoning, coma, intoxication (also known as drunkenness), alcoholism, and in some cases, death.


These are some of the more serious physical effects of alcohol ingestion and quite obviously, they represent some of the negative health effects of alcohol as well as some of the more damaging effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism that are experienced by problem drinkers.

Alcohol Effects on the Body

Alcohol Effects on the Body. Alcohol has a biphasic effect on the body, meaning that its effects change over time.

Initially, alcohol usually produces feelings of cheerfulness and relaxation, but increased alcohol consumption can lead to blurred vision, dehydration, coordination problems, and a whole host of medical, health, and social problems associated with alcoholism.

As stated above, higher quantities of alcohol can lead to drunkenness.

One of the effects of intoxication is the lowering of a person's inhibitions.

As a result, when people are intoxicated they often do things they normally would not do while sober, frequently ignoring moral, legal, and/or social norms.

These clearly are some of the most typical effects of alcohol on the brain.

While these examples can be considered short term alcohol effects, unfortunately, with repetitive and frequent intoxication, a number of people have suffered from long term effects of alcohol as well.

Examples include alcohol-related diseases such as liver damage and various types of cancer, brain damage, and strokes.

This, then, is an overview of some of the alcohol effects on the body.

What follows is a more detailed analysis of how excessive alcohol effects a person's life and those around him or her when the person becomes a problem drinker and then an alcoholic and suffers from alcoholism.

Perhaps the most logical way to discuss alcohol effects in general and alcohol health effects in particular is to focus first on the classic alcoholic behaviors and alcohol effects in the four states of alcoholism.

Then we can examine some of the social effects of alcohol addiction; and finally, discuss the diseases, medical conditions, and health problems that are caused directly or indirectly by alcoholism and unfortunately point to the some of the negative effects of alcohol on the body.

Alcohol Health Effects During the First Stage of Alcoholism

In the first stage of alcoholism, drinking is no longer social but becomes a means of psychological escape from inhibitions, tension, and problems.

Stated differently, early in the disease the person starts to depend on the "mood altering" aspects of alcohol.

Such psychological effects of alcohol serve as powerful sources of motivation that attract people to alcohol.

Another feature of the first stage of alcoholism is that a gradual increase in tolerance develops, meaning that increasing amounts of alcohol are needed in order to feel a "high" or a "buzz."

Actually, tolerance is a good example of one of the effects of alcohol on the brain and has been one of the reasons why various alcoholism experts call alcoholism a "disease of the brain."

The following represents some of the classic alcoholic behaviors, alcohol effects, and drinking problems in the first stage of alcoholism.

Please note that these behaviors and effects include both psychological effects of alcohol dependency and physical effects of alcoholism:

  • Lack of recognition by the person that he or she is in the early stages of a progressive illness

  • Increasing tolerance

  • An ability to drink great amounts of alcohol without any apparent impairment

  • The use of alcohol as a way to forget problems or to "mellow out"

  • A conscious effort to seek out more drinking opportunities

  • Drinking is not social but a psychological escape from stress and problems

  • Boasting and a "big shot" complex

  • Gross Drinking Behavior - more frequent drinking of greater amounts

Alcohol Health Effects During the Second Stage of Alcoholism

In the second stage of alcoholism, the need to drink becomes more intense. In this stage, the problem drinker usually starts to drink earlier in the day.

As tolerance increases, moreover, the person drinks because of his or her dependence on alcohol, rather than because of psychological tension relief.

Also during this stage, the "loss of control" does not yet manifest itself on a regular basis; it is, nevertheless, gradually noticed by others such as family members, work associates, and friends.

The following list symbolizes some of the classic alcoholic behaviors, drinking problems, and alcohol effects in the second stage of alcoholism.

As was apparent in the first stage of alcoholism, the alcoholic behavior and alcohol effects in the second stage of alcohol addiction include physical effects of alcoholism as well as psychological effects of alcohol dependency:

  • Chronic hangovers

  • Denial

  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop drinking

  • Increasing tolerance

  • More frequent blackouts

  • Blaming problems on others and on things external to themselves

  • Increasing physical problems

  • Feelings of guilt and shame

  • Drinking because of dependence rather than for stress relief

  • Sneaking extra drinks before social events

  • Sporadic loss of control

Alcohol Consumption Effects During the Third Stage of Alcoholism

In the third stage of alcoholism, the loss of control becomes more pronounced, meaning that the individual is unable to drink according to his or her intentions.

For example, once the individual has had the first drink, he or she can no longer control what will happen, although the intention might have been to have only two or three drinks.

During this stage of the disease, the person typically starts to experience serious relationship, work-related and financial problems.

In short, during the third stage of alcohol dependency, the person not only exhibits various psychological and physical effects of alcoholism, but he or she often manifests social effects of alcohol addiction.

Moreover, the drinker starts to avoid friends and family members and experiences a loss of interest in things that used to be important. "Eye-openers" are also typical during this stage.

Eye-openers are drinks that are taken whenever the problem drinker awakens to help calm the nerves, lessen a hangover, or to quiet the feelings of remorse the drinker suffers after a period of time without a drink.

Not unlike the effects and alcoholic behaviors that manifest themselves in the first two stages of alcohol addiction, the person exhibits both physical and psychological effects of alcohol dependency.

Unlike the first two stages of the disease, however, the alcoholic also starts to display an increasing number of social effects of alcoholism.

The following characterizes some of the classic alcoholic behaviors, alcohol effects, and drinking problems in the third stage of alcoholism:

  • Unreasonable resentments

  • The start of physical deterioration

  • Increasing tremors

  • An increase in failed promises and resolutions to one's self and to others

  • The development of an alibi system - an elaborate system of excuses for their drinking

  • Eye-openers

  • Aggressive and grandiose behavior

  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be important

  • A decrease in alcohol tolerance

  • Loss of control has become a pattern

  • Changes in friendships, such as associating only with friends who drink

  • Half-hearted attempts at seeking medical aid

  • Serious financial, relationship, and work-related problems

  • Neglect of necessities such as food

  • The development of an alibi system - an elaborate system of excuses for their drinking

  • Frequent violent or destructive behavior

  • A decrease in alcohol tolerance

  • Loss of willpower

  • Problems with the law (such as DUIs)

  • Avoidance of family and friends

Alcohol Health Effects During the Fourth Stage of Alcoholism

The fourth and final stage of alcoholism is characterized by a chronic loss of control.

In the earlier stages of the disease, the individual may have been able to maintain a job.

Now, however, drinking starts earlier in the day and usually continues throughout the day.

Not surprisingly, few, if any, full-time jobs can be maintained once an individual reaches this state of affairs. In the earlier stages of the disease, furthermore, the alcoholic had a choice whether he or she would take the first drink.

After taking the first drink, the alcoholic typically lost all control and would then continue drinking.

In the last stage of alcoholism, however, alcoholics no longer have a choice: they must drink in order to function.

It is fairly apparent that with each successive stage, alcoholism is characterized by physical effects of alcohol addiction, psychological effects of alcohol dependency, and social effects of alcoholism that are getting gradually and progressively worse as the person continues to drink in an abusive manner.

Unfortunately, it is in the fourth stage of the disease that the short term effects of alcoholism start to get overshadowed by the long term effects of alcohol dependency.

To say that these effects of drinking alcohol can be called the worst effects of alcoholism is an understatement. Many of these alcohol long term effects will be listed below.

The following list represents some of the classic alcoholic behaviors, drinking problems, and alcohol effects in the fourth stage of alcoholism:

  • An obsession with drinking

  • The "DTs"

  • The realization of being out of control

  • Unreasonable resentments and hostility toward others

  • Indefinable fears

  • Benders, or lengthy intoxications

  • The possibility of alcoholic psychosis

  • Impaired thinking

  • Loss of tolerance for alcohol

  • Persistent remorse

  • Vague spiritual desires

  • Auditory and visual hallucinations

  • Devaluation of personal relationships

  • Nameless fears and anxieties such as feelings of impending doom or destruction

  • Moral deterioration

  • Continual loss of control

  • The collapse of the alibi system

  • "The shakes"


The Social Effects of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

One of the effects of drinking alcohol in an abusive and hazardous manner is that addiction to alcohol not only affects the alcoholic or the person with a drinking problem, but it also has a negative effects on those who are closest to the alcoholic, namely his family, friends, relatives, and work associates.

Stated differently, one of the worst effects of alcohol dependency is that the social effects of alcohol become more pronounced.

The following list is a sample of the social effects of alcohol addiction:

  • Destroyed lives

  • Codependent behavior in others

  • Wife battering

  • Birth defects such as fetal alcohol syndrome

  • Destroyed relationships

  • Work-related injuries and accidents

  • Child abuse

  • Broken, dysfunctional homes

  • Traffic fatalities or injuries on the highways

Medical Effects of Drinking Alcohol in an Abusive Manner

Alcoholism causes a number of diseases, medical conditions, and health problems.

In short, the effects of drinking alcohol in a hazardous way results in a number of alcohol health effects that not harm the body, but in some instances lead to death.

We will focus first on the different types of cancer caused by alcoholism and then on the non-cancerous illnesses and ailments that are the consequence of this disease.

Health Effects of Alcohol Addiction: Cancer

Cancer is clearly one of the most serious effects of alcohol on the body.

Over time, excessive and abusive drinking overtax the organs and systems of the body and cause them to function in a less-than-optimal manner.

One of the long term effects of alcohol is that as a person's organs and systems breakdown and start to malfunction, the person's natural defensive system and immune system become less able to counteract the threats posed by cancer.

The following is a list of different types of cancer that are caused directly or indirectly by alcoholism:

  • Liver

  • Colon

  • Kidneys

  • Esophagus

  • Stomach

  • Throat

  • Rectum

  • Larynx

Alcohol Effects on the Body: Non-Cancerous Medical Conditions

Excessive and hazardous drinking results in numerous alcohol consumption effects besides cancer.

Indeed, other long term effects of alcohol addiction manifest themselves in a host of diseases and medical problems that present both alcohol short term effects and alcohol long term effects for problem drinkers.

The following is a list non-cancerous diseases, medical conditions, and health problems caused directly or indirectly by alcoholism:

  • Loss of intellectual abilities

  • Diabetes

  • Sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction and impotence in men

  • Nervous system damage

  • Wernicke's disease (a memory disorder)

  • Problems with the immune system

  • Impaired learning ability

  • Pancreatitis

  • Vitamin A deficiency (which can cause night blindness)

  • Numbness of the feet and hands

  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms when the alcoholic stops drinking

  • Dehydration

  • Kidney failure

  • Alcohol Poisoning

  • Vitamin D deficiency (which can result in bone fractures)

  • Coma

  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)

  • Organ and system malfunction

  • Inflammation of the digestive system

  • Ulcers from the perforation of the stomach and the intestines

  • Pneumonia

  • Memory loss

  • Vitamin deficiencies (such as folate, selenium, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B6)

  • Infections

  • Mental confusion

  • Kidney and urinary tract infections

  • Death (from alcohol poisoning, excessive intoxication, and organ malfunction)

  • Harm to the fetus while the mother is pregnant

  • Korsakoff's syndrome (a memory disorder)

  • Cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart muscle), heart failure, and strokes

  • Destruction of brain cells

  • Sever thiamine deficiency

  • Brain damage

  • Cirrhosis of the liver

Fetal Alcohol Effects

One of the most publicized and truly unfortunate long term effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism are various fetal alcohol effects that can emerge when a woman drinks alcohol while she is pregnant.

The "umbrella" term for these medical conditions is known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).

Fetal alcohol syndrome, it may be noted, is the best known and most researched form of FASD.

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is characterized by a pattern of structural or functional central nervous system irregularities, prenatal and postnatal growth retardation, and minor facial abnormalities.

Although there is no cure for fetal alcohol syndrome, children who are diagnosed early have an improved prognosis.

That is, children who are diagnosed early in life can be given access to various social service agencies and placed in the appropriate special educational classes that can benefit them and their family.

Additionally, an early diagnosis of the disease frequently helps families and teachers better understand why the child might act or behave differently than other children who are the same age but without FAS.

Perhaps the most regrettable aspect of fetal alcohol syndrome and other fetal alcohol effects is that this disease is 100% preventable and avoidable.

That is, if all pregnant women were to abstain from drinking alcohol while they were pregnant, there would be no instances of fetal alcohol syndrome or other fetal alcohol effects.

Conclusion: Alcohol Effects

The effects of drinking alcohol in an abusive and self-destructive manner lead to a number of short term effects of alcohol consumption, drinking problems, and alcohol long term effects that are widespread as well as disastrous.

Indeed, chronic alcoholism is truly a destructive, damaging, and debilitating disease that affects the alcoholic; the alcoholic's social network, namely his family members, other relatives, friends, and work associates; and the unfortunate "strangers" who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the alcoholic causes a traffic fatality or accident because he or she was driving "under the influence" of alcohol.

In a word, the social effects of alcohol are pervasive and destructive.

If this weren't enough, the short term effects of alcohol addiction as well as the long term effects of alcohol dependency manifest themselves in an almost unbelievable number of medical conditions, drinking problems, and diseases that are experienced by the alcoholic as negative physical effects of alcoholism and psychological effect of alcohol addiction.

At first glance, the number of illnesses, ailments, and harmful alcohol effects on the body that are related to alcoholism is almost overwhelming.

After the situation is examined in more detail, however, the alcohol health effects and medical consequences of the disease start to make more sense.

More to the point, over time, alcoholism progressively breaks down the proper functioning of the body's main systems and organs.

Not only this, but the alcoholic cannot replenish the vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients his or her body needs because of poor eating habits and perhaps more importantly because the body's malfunctioning systems and organs prevent the proper absorption, metabolism, digestion, and utilization of the nutrients required for repair, growth, and general maintenance.

The Long Term Effects of Alcohol. Therefore, over time, the alcoholic slowly kills himself or herself due to his or her alcoholic behavior.

These are the devastating and negative health effects of alcohol addiction and the destructive effects of alcohol dependency that function somewhat similar to "silent killers" such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol because most of the damaging alcohol consumption effects often remain undetected until they get out of control and lead to a medical crisis.

One of the truly unfortunate and negative long term effects of alcohol concerns various fetal alcohol effects such as fetal alcohol syndrome.

While there is currently no cure for this disease, early detection, the utilization of different social services, and special education can help a child with FAS live as "normal" as possible.

It must be emphasized, however, that just because there is not a cure for this disease does not mean that it cannot be avoided.

Indeed, pregnant women who refrain from drinking while they are pregnant totally eliminate the possibility that their child will be born with FAS.

In sum, while some of the short term effects of alcohol consumption can be extremely harmful, long-term abusive and excessive alcoholic behaviors typically manifest themselves not only as dangerous effects of alcohol on the brain and damaging effects of alcohol on the body, but they also manifest themselves as destructive drinking problems that negatively affect the alcoholic or the problem drinker and his or her social network.


If you are experiencing any of these negative "alcohol effects" you need to be honest with yourself and admit that you have a drinking problem.

Once you have taken this step, consider making it a priority to talk with an alcohol abuse and alcoholism professional about getting alcohol treatment as soon as possible.