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Long Term Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol consumption is widely acceptable in many societies and cultures and possibly the most abused substance on earth with a long history of being used to celebrate, relax, heal, socialize, or for religious ceremonies. Millions of people, however, have succumbed to its powerfully addictive effects and are unable to turn away from its use even when faced with dire consequences of it. The long term effects of alcohol have left many destitute, unable to function mentally, physically, and socially, amid the constant need to drink.

Intoxication Effects of Alcohol

alcohol abuse effects

Alcohol can produce sensations of pleasure along with drowsiness.

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that works unlike any other drug to alter neurological functions by slowing down neurotransmission in some systems of the brain while stimulating others. The repeat disruptions in the brain’s circuitry, neurological damages, and alcohol’s toxicity cause the person’s physical and mental health to progressively deteriorate.

Alcohol produces the sense of pleasure and feelings of relaxation, sedation, and drowsiness. Most people can control their alcohol consumption and suffer no ill effects from its use, while others drink abnormally high amounts and end up in negative or dangerous circumstances from their inappropriate use.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.”

Alcohol Tolerance

Over time, the brain becomes desensitized to the alcohol and more is needed to elicit the desired effects. This is known as tolerance and a person who has been drinking for a significant amount of time, will probably be able to consume higher amounts of alcohol than others in their company. That is, until they begin to suffer liver or other health problems that changes their alcohol metabolism rates.


Alcoholism is characterized by a physical dependence to alcohol and the person will suffer withdrawal symptoms when their blood alcohol content drops after their body has become accustomed to certain levels of it. The alcoholic is unable to control their compulsive use of alcohol despite the negative consequences to their health and they will continue to drink the alcohol to prevent the withdrawals.

Long Term Adverse Effects of Alcohol

Problematic behaviors that reflect the alcoholic’s inability to control their alcoholism can lead to:

  • Family Problems – Frequent disagreements, arguments, denials, dishonesty, or confrontations can lead to separations, divorce, abuse, neglect, or withdrawal and isolation from loved ones.
  • Employment Problems – Poor work attendance or performance, inability to retain a job, drinking on the job.
  • Financial Problems – Failures to manage financial obligations in pursuit of alcohol.
  • Social Problems – Isolation or loss of interest in important activities, homelessness.
  • Legal Problems – DUIs, assaults, domestic violence, injuries and the misuse of firearms.

Long term effects of alcohol can result in variety of psychological problems including emotional disturbances, cognitive deficits, and behavioral changes. Some mental health problems can be very serious and possibly dangerous such as alcohol psychosis where hallucinations and delusions of persecution are profound, or delirium tremens (DTs) that occur when the alcohol goes into withdrawal. Other psychological effects of alcohol may include:

  • Anxiety disorders, excessive agitation and restlessness, panic attacks
  • Emotional instability or rapid mood swings
  • Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
  • Depression
  • Aggression, anger, or violent tendencies
  • Lack of self control, or unpredictable thoughts and behaviors, impulsiveness
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Memory loss or blackouts
  • Cognitive deficits, confusion, dementia
  • Isolation and inability to maintain positive relationships
  • Loss of interest or inability to feel pleasure with once enjoyed activities
  • Disregard for basic living needs
  • Failure to meet work, school, family, or social obligations

Long Term Physical Effects of Alcohol

Long term effects of alcohol can attribute to many disabling diseases and physical impairments including:

  • Liver diseases such as cirrhosis, fatty liver, hepatitis, and fibrosis. The NIAAA estimated that “Among all cirrhosis deaths in 2009, 48.2 percent were alcohol related. The proportion of alcohol-related cirrhosis was highest (70.6 percent) among decedents ages 35–44.” And “alcohol-related liver disease was the primary cause of almost 1 in 3 liver transplants in the United States.”
  • Injuries from accidental falls, car crashes, drowning, burns, homicides, sexual assaults, suicide, and other traumas have been widely attributable to alcohol misuse and the longer a person continues to drink, the greater their chances of having an alcohol related injury becomes.
  • Cardiovascular diseases and problems that result from long term use of alcohol include stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and cardiomyopathy.
  • Gastrointestinal problems may include bleeding in the stomach, ulcers, pancreatitis, and erosion of the esophagus, colon and intestinal cancers.
  • Cancer risks are increasingly being attributed to long term alcohol use including throat, esophagus, breast, liver, and mouth cancers.
  • Brain and neurological damages are immense and the impairments can cause a varity of mental or physical disorders.
  • Immunological problems result from deteriorated health including increased risk of infections and reduction in abilities to heal
  • Communicable diseases are not uncommon with the prevalence of unsafe sex or other dangerously unhealthy aspects of long term alcohol use.
  • Diabetes is a common effect that results from the consumption of the excessive amounts of sugar in the alcohol

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