Short- and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol, whether as a single occurrence or over time, can be detrimental to your overall health.1 This article will go over the short- and long-term effects of alcohol use, alcohol withdrawal, and how to get help for alcohol addiction.

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Use

Alcohol consumption can create several short-term effects of alcohol on the body that at first may be perceived as fun and relaxing. However, beyond these perceived “benefits,” the intoxicating effects of drinking can quickly become dangerous as levels of alcohol in the bloodstream sharply rise. As alcohol consumption continues, the risks of negative psychical, mental, and behavioral effects increase.2

Even a small increase in a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can cloud judgement, decrease motor coordination, and make a person feel unwell.2 However, there are factors that contribute to the speed and severity in which someone is affected by alcohol, some of which include:2

  • Age and gender.
  • Tolerance (sensitivity to alcohol).
  • Medications or other substances being used.
  • Speed of drinking (for example, binge drinking).
  • Amount of food eaten.

Short-Term Health Effects of Alcohol

There are several short-term effects that can occur as a result of alcohol consumption, including:1,2,4

  • Drowsiness.
  • Poor coordination and balance.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Impaired judgement and decision-making skills.
  • Slowed reaction time and ability to process information.
  • Reduced ability to judge distance and movement.
  • Increased risk of injury, such as from falls or car accidents.
  • Decreased impulse control.
  • Increased likelihood of risky sexual behavior such as unprotected sex.
  • Increased aggression (in some people).
  • Impaired memory.
  • Loss of consciousness.

Alcohol Poisoning

Heavy consumption of alcohol can be extremely dangerous as it can lead to alcohol poisoning, also referred to as an alcohol overdose.2 The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines an alcohol overdose as “when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support functions—such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control—begin to shut down.”2

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can include, but are not limited to:2

  • Vomiting.
  • Clammy skin.
  • Slow heart rate.
  • Difficulty remaining wake or inability to wake up.
  • Slow and/or irregular breathing.
  • Extremely low body temperature.
  • Paleness and/or bluish skin color.
  • Mental confusion and/or stupor.
  • Dulled responses (i.e. no gag reflex which prevents choking).
  • Seizures.

Consuming other substances—such as opioids, prescription sedatives, or sleep medications—along with alcohol can increase a person’s risk of an overdose.2 Even when a person has stopped drinking or is unconscious, their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise from alcohol still currently coursing through the body and into the bloodstream.2 

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Misuse

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of serious health problems, including chronic conditions that can linger long after drinking has stopped. Long-term effects of alcohol on the body can affect one’s functionality and overall health in all areas of their life.3

Long-Term Health Effects of Alcohol 

Repeated consumption of alcohol in high doses can affect nearly every organ system in the body, including the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal tract, and the nervous system.4 When alcohol consumption continues, it can lead to the development of long-term health issues such as these, as well as others. Some of these issues can include:1,3,4

  • Gastritis.
  • Stomach or duodenal ulcers.
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Liver disease, including fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis.
  • Cancer in several vital organs, including but not limited to, the stomach, gastrointestinal tract, liver, colon, and mouth.
  • Heart disease, including arrythmias and alcoholic cardiomyopathy.
  • Chronic hypertension and increased stroke risk.
  • Weakened immune system and increased risk of certain pulmonary infections.
  • Chronic nutritional deficiencies and related degenerative changes in the brain.
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (“wet brain”)
  • Worsened mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
  • Increased likelihood of alcohol dependence/withdrawal and alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol use disorder is also considered an “important contributor” to suicide risk during severe intoxication. People with alcohol addiction have an increased risk of suicidal behavior and completed suicide.4

Alcohol Withdrawal

Long-term alcohol use can result in significant physiological alcohol dependence. Once a person becomes alcohol dependent, withdrawal can develop when attempts are made to stop drinking. Acute alcohol withdrawal signs and symptoms generally begin 6 to 24 hours after a person takes their last drink.5

Signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:5

  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Agitation and irritability.
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Delusions.
  • Tremors.
  • Grand mal seizures.

Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and medical complications may potentially lead to fatal outcomes. Dysregulation of body functioning (temperature, pulse, and blood pressure), seizures, delirium tremens, and more are all medical complications that can lead to death if not properly treated.5

Alcohol rehab facilities like Greenhouse offer medically supervised alcohol detox where patients are supervised around-the-clock, any medical complications are addressed immediately.

Get Help for Alcohol Addiction 

Greenhouse Treatment center provides industry accredited alcohol rehab to Dallas and Ft. Worth metro areas. Greenhouse prides itself in its exceptional care and a collaborative team of nurses, psychiatric providers, therapists, and case managers. Offering multiple levels of alcohol addiction treatment, Greenhouse creates an individualized treatment plan suited for the unique needs of each patient.

For more information on rehab admissions, how to pay for alcohol rehab, and more information on Greenhouse, reach out to our admission navigators available 24/7 at .

You can also verify if your health insurance covers rehab through our quick and confidential benefit verification tool.

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