Responsible consumption of alcohol presents little to no risk of harmful complications occurring in a healthy person. However, the effects of alcohol abuse are numerous. In addition to developing an addiction to alcohol, short- and long-term alcohol abuse can lead to the onset of a number of debilitating diseases, financial hardship, and social consequences.
Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse
The most common short-term effect of alcohol abuse is a hangover. This term describes a group of symptoms experienced by a person after heavy consumption of alcohol. These symptoms often include nausea, fatigue, thirst, headache, diarrhea, and sensitivity to light and noise. The severity of the hangover depends on several factors, including the amount of alcohol consumed, the level of hydration in the body at the time of alcohol consumption, and disease.
However, a hangover is only one of the many short-term effects of alcohol abuse. Other problems that can develop include:
“The most common short-term effect of alcohol abuse is a hangover.”
- Blackouts – Consuming large amounts of alcohol can lead to temporary amnesia where the person is unable to recall events that occurred after he or she began drinking. This can lead to serious repercussions, particularly if the person engaged in sexual activity during that time.
- Alcohol Poisoning – This is when a person consumes large amounts of alcohol in a relatively short period of time. Ethanol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system. When a person over-consumes to the point where his or her body is unable to metabolize the alcohol, the respiratory system and other bodily functions may become too depressed to function properly. This can lead to a comatose state and even death.
- Sleep Disruptions – Even though alcohol is a depressant, over-consumption of the drug can cause unpleasant sleep disruptions. While inexperienced drinkers sleep more soundly after one or two drinks, alcohol has the opposite effect on experienced drinkers, and the effect is compounded with increased alcohol consumption. This can lead to insomnia and sleep deprivation.
- Ataxia – Alcohol is thought to affect the cerebellum, which is responsible for bodily movement. A person under the influence may be unable to move in a coordinated fashion. This can lead to accidents that result in serious bodily injuries and increased medical bills.
- Legal Problems – Alcohol impairs judgment and may result in a person making poor decisions that lead to legal consequences. For example, he or she may decide to drive while intoxicated, which can result in being arrested for drunk driving.
- Ruined Relationships – Because of reduced inhibitions and impaired judgment, the intoxicated person may make statements or engage in actions that hurt the people he or she loves. For example, the person may consent to sexual intercourse with someone other than his or her spouse.
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse that continues for long periods of time can result in increasingly serious physiological, psychological, and social consequences. Some of the long-term effects of alcohol abuse include:
- “The most common consequence of long-term alcohol abuse is liver disease.”Liver Damage – The most common consequence of long-term alcohol abuse is liver disease. It usually begins as hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and ends with cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). If left untreated, the disease is life threatening and the damage to the liver may be irreversible.
- Brain Damage – Alcohol is absorbed into all the cells of the body, including brain cells. Chronic abuse of alcohol can lead to the deterioration of the brain and nervous system and the onset of a number of related medical complications, including cognitive decline, dementia, and major depressive disorder.
- Financial Difficulties – A person who abuses alcohol may make poor financial decisions in order to support his or her level of alcohol consumption. For example, he or she may spend the money for rent on alcohol, which results in eviction from his or her place of residence. The person may lose his or her job because the alcohol abuse has begun to affect his or her job performance.
- Destroyed Relationships – In the beginning, friends and family members may protect and help the person who is addicted to alcohol out of love and concern. However, chronic offenses committed by the alcoholic while under the influence may permanently drive loved ones away.
- Death – Whether it is through the onset of disease or an unfortunate mishap while under the influence of alcohol, death is a possible consequence of a long-term alcohol abuse.
Help for Alcohol Abuse
Whether the abuse of alcohol has been occurring for a few months or for several years, it is important to get help as soon as you realize there is a problem. The sooner help is sought, the sooner you or your loved one can begin recovering from the effects of alcohol abuse. For help in finding someone to assist you with the recovery process, call our free helpline at 1-800-861-9454.