Side Effects of Drinking Alcohol

The way in which alcohol reacts with each person is different. While some people may be able to drink socially and control their consumption, others cannot. This means experiences of side effects caused by alcohol differ from person to person.

To understand the consequences of drinking, it is important to know what is considered one drink. One drink is recognized as 12 ounces of beer (approximately 5% alcohol), 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor (approximately 7% alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (approximately 12% alcohol), 1 and a half ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits such as vodka, rum, gin, etc (approximately 40% alcohol). The effects of alcohol vary depending on many risk factors such as the number of drinks consumed, medical history, tolerance to alcohol, and the mixture of other drugs with alcohol.

Short Term Side Effects of Alcohol

Depending on how much alcohol is consumed and the other risk factors of alcohol consumption, alcohol can have various immediate effects on the body. Some general short-term side effects of alcohol are:

Low amounts of alcohol:

  • Impaired reflexes
  • Slower reaction time
  • Problems with coordination

Moderate amounts of alcohol:

  • Slurred speech
  • Changes in vision
  • Sleepiness
  • Increased urination
  • Flushed skin
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Problems concentrating
  • Changes in mood

Heavy amounts of alcohol:

  • Vomiting
  • Problems controlling your bowels and bladder
  • Breathing problems
  • Passing out
  • Blacking out

Some people have rarer reactions to alcohol as well, such as genetic conditions that cause acute alcohol sensitivity resulting in a stuffy nose and flushed skin after drinking. Alcohol can also impact your mental wellbeing as it is a central nervous system depressant. 

Alcohol Poisoning

Heavy drinking can cause you to overdose on alcohol and experience alcohol poisoning. Deaths from alcohol poisoning are very common among alcoholics and heavy drinkers. Some symptoms of alcohol poisoning are:

  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Dulled response to stimuli
  • Low body temperature
  • Blue skin offer, especially on lips
  • Clammy/sweaty skin
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures

Alcohol poisoning can be fatal so it is important that if you notice any of these symptoms to call 911 immediately. 

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol

Excessive drinking over time can lead to chronic disease and other serious health concerns including: 

  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon
  • Weakening of the immune system increasing the chances of illness
  • The development of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression
  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance
  • Social problems, including a loss in productivity, family problems, and unemployment
  • Alcohol use disorders and alcoholism
  • Death

Other possible long-term effects of alcohol are:

  • Unintentional injuries such as car crashes, falls, burns, drowning, etc
  • Intentional injuries such as firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence, etc
  • Sexual problems
  • Permanent nerve and brain damage
  • Vitamin B deficiency, which can lead to disorders characterized by amnesia, apathy, and disorientation
  • Ulcers and gastritis (inflammation of stomach walls)
  • Anemia
  • Malnutrition

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse can be detrimental to both your physical and mental health. Even if you cannot see the damage caused by alcohol, it is important to know that doesn’t mean your drinking isn’t taking a toll on your body. Some signs of alcohol abuse are:

  • Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Wanting to cut down on your alcohol consumption or making unsuccessful attempts to do so
  • Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol, or recovering from alcohol use
  • Feeling strong cravings to drink alcohol
  • Failing to fulfill obligations/responsibilities at work, school, or home due to repeated alcohol use
  • Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it’s causing physical, social, or interpersonal problems
  • Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies
  • Using alcohol in situations where it’s not safe, such as when driving or swimming
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, and shaking, when you don’t drink, or drinking to avoid these symptoms

Some harmful effects of alcohol aren’t discovered until much later, so being aware of the signs of alcohol abuse and the risks of drinking excessively is essential in maintaining your long-term health. 

Regaining Control Over Your Drinking at Design for Recovery

Alcohol use and abuse can quickly derail your goals and overall life, however, it is possible to regain control over your life and your drinking. At Design for Recovery, you can begin to lead a healthier and happier life without alcohol. Design for Recovery offers a structured, safe environment to become more secure in your sobriety. Residents work hard daily to develop new skills, values, and coping mechanisms for approaching life in early recovery. During this process, residents develop close friendships with their peers and become connected with the Los Angeles recovery community. It can be very difficult to get sober and stay sober on your own, so building this support network with your sober peers is important in your recovery. At Design for Recovery, you can develop the skills to stay sober long-term and lead a healthy, happy life.

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