Effects of Alcohol
What Are the Effects of Alcohol?
Every person is different; therefore, the effects of alcohol vary from person to person. While some people may be able to limit their drinking, others have a difficult time controlling their alcohol consumption.
In order to fully understand the consequences of drinking, you should first know what constitutes as a drink. One drink is recognized as:
- 12 fluid ounces of beer – approximately five percent alcohol
- Eight to nine fluid ounces of malt liquor – about seven percent alcohol
- Five fluid ounces of wine – roughly 12 percent alcohol
- One and one-half ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (vodka, rum, gin, tequila, whisky, etc.) – an estimated 40 percent alcohol
The effects of alcohol can be influenced by a number of risk factors such as the amount consumed, individual’s medical history, tolerance to alcohol, as well as other drugs – legal or illegal – mixed with alcohol.
If you or a loved one is experiencing the effects of alcohol, it’s time to get help. Our treatment professionals can put you in touch with top-rated alcohol rehab facilities that will assist you in getting your life back on track. Contact us now to discover treatment programs and other resources for your recovery.
Understanding Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
A person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) determines the effect of alcohol on the central nervous system. Those who have built up a tolerance to alcohol can drink more than those with a lower tolerance level.
Depending on your BAC, you can experience an array of side effects that range from minor complications to more severe ones. For example, lower BAC percentages tend to come with temporary side effects that subside within a few hours. However, as BAC percentages increase, the symptoms become much more serious and can be life-threatening.
Here’s a breakdown of different BAC percentages along with their symptoms:
BAC: 0.033-0.12 Percent
- Improvement in mood
- Higher self-confidence
- Less anxiety
- Flushing of the face
- Shorter attention span
- Lack of fine motor coordination
- Impairment of judgment
BAC: 0.09-0.25 Percent
- Loss of memory and lack of comprehension
- Delayed motor reactions
- Balance problems and ataxia
- Blurred vision and sensation impairment
BAC 0.25-0.40 Percent
- In and out of consciousness or complete unconsciousness
- Amnesia during the events while intoxicated
- Staggering gait
- Vomiting with aspiration
- Respiratory depression
- Incontinence of urine
- Slowed heart rate
BAC 0.35-0.80 Percent
- Lack of pupillary response to light
- Life-threatening respiratory depression
- Severe decrease in heart rate
Binge drinkers are 39 percent more likely to suffer from any type of stroke than those who do not partake in binge drinking.
In the United States, more than two million people suffer from liver disease due to alcohol consumption. Above: An MRI scan of the liver.
Alcohol suppresses the immune system, making a person more at risk of developing infection and disease.
How Alcohol Abuse Affects the Body
Alcohol abuse can affect your body both inside and out. Even though you’re unable to see the damage drinking causes to your internal organs, it’s important not to ignore the warning signs of alcoholism. Sometimes the harmful effects aren’t discovered until much later in life, making it difficult to reverse many health complications.
While every organ in your body can feel the effects from drinking, some are more at risk for extensive damage. The best way to prevent health issues now and in the future is to quit drinking with the help of a professional treatment program.
Alcohol’s effects on the brain can be felt quickly. Not only can drinking cause temporary complications such as memory loss and coordination, it can also lead to long-term side effects that are sometimes irreversible.
Prolonged and excessive alcohol use can interfere with how the brain functions, as well as how it’s structured. Damage to different regions of the brain, especially the cerebellum, limbic system and cerebral cortex, can significantly impact the body’s communication pathways. For example, the cerebellum handles your body’s motor skills. When alcohol affects this area of the brain, you’re more likely to experience a loss of balance, as well as memory and emotional response issues.
The heart is extremely vulnerable to the negative effects of alcohol consumption. Over time, heavy drinking can weaken the heart, impacting how oxygen and nutrients are delivered to other vital organs in your body. Excessive alcohol consumption can increase triglyceride levels – a type of fat in your blood. High levels of triglycerides contribute to the risk of developing dangerous health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
Some of the early cardiovascular effects, like high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat, can lead to a host of problems down the road. Long-term consequences of excessive drinking may include cardiomyopathy, stroke and sudden cardiac death.
Heavy drinkers are at risk of harmful, potentially life-threatening liver problems. When you drink, your liver breaks down alcohol and removes it from your blood. However, too much alcohol in a short period of time can overwhelm the metabolism process and lead to fatty liver. Fatty liver is a chronic condition that involves the buildup of bad fats in the liver. Obesity is one of the biggest factors of fatty liver. It can also cause liver failure and type 2 diabetes.
Other serious liver complications associated with prolonged and excessive alcohol consumption are alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis and cirrhosis. While each of these conditions is treatable, they require a proper medical diagnosis and intensive treatment plan.
The pancreas is part of the digestive process and helps regulate your body’s blood sugar levels. Drinking alcohol over many years can start to negatively impact your pancreas and cause lasting health complications. Unfortunately, the early stages of many pancreatic conditions are often unfelt and therefore, left untreated.
Long-term alcohol abuse can eventually cause the blood vessels around the pancreas to swell, leading to pancreatitis. This greatly increases your risk of developing pancreatic cancer – a type of cancer that spreads rapidly and is very dangerous. Symptoms of an acute pancreatic attack may include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, fast heart rate and fever. While medications and other treatment methods can help manage the effects of pancreatitis, it is very difficult to reverse the condition.
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Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse
There are various short- and long-term side effects associated with drinking excessively. The symptoms you may experience often depend on the amount of alcohol consumed. For example, lower to moderate consumption amounts typically involve less severe effects than drinking greater quantities.
Several short-term side effects of alcohol abuse include:
- Slurred speech
- Vision impairment
- Lack of coordination
- Extreme shifts in mood
- Memory lapses
- Slowed breathing
While some people may experience multiple side effects, others may face fewer complications. Unfortunately, the effects of heavy drinking affects more than the person struggling with alcohol abuse – it affects the people around them. It can directly impact your friends, family and colleagues. Even the short-term effects of drinking can cause extensive harm, ranging from driving under the influence (DUI) and criminal activities to unintentional self-harm.
In addition to the short-term, visible side effects of alcoholism, there are also long-term effects. Individuals who consume alcohol over a prolonged period are more at risk of developing these complications. Symptoms gradually surface over the course of months and years.
The long-term side effects associated with heavy drinking are:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Liver disease
- Respiratory infections
- Nerve Damage
These long-term side effects of alcoholism can impact other areas of your life such as relationship problems with family or friends, legal trouble, financial issues and poor performance at work or in school.
Choosing to overcome alcoholism is a huge decision in a person’s life. When you quit drinking, it’s important to do so safely under the care of professionally trained treatment providers. Whether you or a loved one is experiencing the short- or long-term effects of alcohol abuse, we can help you explore the various treatment options available. Give us a call today to get started on your recovery journey.
Alcohol Abuse Treatment
Alcohol abuse can quickly derail someone’s goals and dreams for the future. However, you don’t have to lose hope and continue down the path of destruction. Across the country, there are specialized alcohol treatment programs that help millions of individuals overcome alcoholism each year. With customized recovery plans in place, each facility offers unique amenities, therapies and activities to fit your needs. During the course of your treatment program, you will learn about how to handle triggers, prevent urges to drink and other tools to help you maintain sobriety.
Stop Alcoholism Now
It’s time to put an end to alcohol abuse, and live a strong and healthy life. A recovery provider can help you find alcohol treatment programs that are tailored to your specific needs.
Speak with a recovery specialist now to learn more.
Clinical Reviewer — Last Reveiwed: March 21, 2019
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol’s Effects on the Body. November 2016. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Beyond Hangovers: Understanding Alcohol’s Impact on Your Health. November 2016. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fact Sheets – Alcohol Use and Your Health. November 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
American Heart Association. Alcohol and Heart Health. November 2016. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Alcohol-and-Heart-Health_UCM_305173_Article.jsp#.WCND3OErL_Q
Cleveland Clinic. (2006). Alcohol and Your Heart. November 2016. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/prevention/nutrition/food-choices/alcohol-and-your-heart
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