May 31, 2013 | By Tim Stoddart

What Effects does Alcohol Have on the Body?


Alcoholism is an overwhelmingly present issue. It is a very powerful and damaging disease that is very capable of taking your health for a horrific downfall if left untreated.

With the consistent abuse of alcohol or someone suffering from alcoholism, there are short- and long-term effects on the body. But what someone may not realize is that the short-term all too often turns into the long-term and then you have reached an entirely new obstacle.

So what happens when you drink alcohol? Sure, it all seems well and good until you over drink. Who has ever had an experience in which you drank too much, became ill and swore off drinking all together? I know I have.

However, one thing is certain:  Continuing to consume alcohol will bring upon uninhibited feelings tied with possible dizziness, slurred speech, possible aggressiveness and violence, emotional ups and downs and a sense of false well-being. Then you can look forward to the next day…the infamous hangover.  A typical hangover which results from too much alcohol will cause headache, nausea, and fatigue.

While many people consume alcohol and willingly endure these short-term effects without having any sort of trouble or difficulty stopping, some aren’t so willing to stop and become addicted. However, there are still short term effects that should be noted.

effects of alcoholism
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Short-Term Effects

Alcohol is absorbed into our system through the walls of our stomach and intestines, which is why people get intoxicated more quickly on an empty stomach. Alcohol is processed by the liver, which is the only organ that produces the proper enzyme. When a person is drunk, they generally go through different “stages.” Starting with euphoria, as a person drinks alcohol they move into a stage of lethargy, followed by confusion, stupor, and coma or death.

Here is a list of some of the common short-term effects of alcohol on our bodies, which worsen and can become severe or life-threatening as more alcohol is consumed.

  • Flushed face or red blotches on the skin
  • Impaired fine motor skills
  • Sedation
  • Impaired memory
  • Lack of muscle coordination
  • Poor balance
  • Blurred vision or other impaired senses
  • Impaired ability to speak
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness to pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Unconsciousness
  • Inability to create new memories
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Respiratory depression

Long-Term Effects

For people who drink a lot of alcohol on a regular basis, the effects on their body can be quite significant. The liver is the part of the body that’s most affected. Long-term alcohol use can lead to a fatty liver, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and inflammation. The liver will not work as well and fewer nutrients and oxygen will reach the liver cells, which will eventually lead to liver failure.

Here is a list of more parts of the body that are affected by frequent alcohol consumption and how they’re affected:

  • Heart: Heavy drinking can raise blood pressure and lead to heart arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, and stroke.
  • Brain: The brain’s communication pathways are impaired, which causes many of the short-term effects of alcohol, such as lack of coordination and memory. With heavy drinking, some damage to the brain and its communication pathways can be permanent.
  • Pancreas: Alcohol makes the pancreas produce a toxic substance that can lead to a swollen pancreas and swollen blood vessels in the pancreas, which impairs digestion.
  • Kidneys: Alcohol enlarges the kidneys, impairs their ability to function, and can lead to kidney disease and kidney failure.
  • Immune System: Heavy drinking lowers the body’s defenses against disease and infection.

There are many other ways that alcohol can affect the body in the long-term. Frequent, long-term alcohol consumption can also lead to these diseases and conditions (directly or indirectly):

  • Cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat, breast, liver, and colon.
  • Gouty arthritis
  • Pneumonia
  • Tuberculosis
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Nervous disorders like dementia and neuropathy
  • Obesity
  • Psychological disorders like depression, insomnia, and anxiety
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome

The long-term effects of consuming alcohol will most definitely lead to some sort of damage to vital organs such as the liver and the brain. Oftentimes, alcoholism will lead to permanent damage. Other long-term issues entail a lack of good nutrition, as the alcoholic is focused on the drinking rather than eating properly. They also may suffer financially, as it is very difficult for someone to balance the disease of alcoholism and a commitment to employment.

There is a thin line between drinking alcohol in moderation and having it consume your life. Alcoholism often begins with casual and social drinking and then turns into a long-term lifestyle. No matter what your decision, to drink or not, the best thing you can do is be as aware as possible of all the dangers of alcohol running rampant.

Wernicke–Korsakoff Syndrome

wet brain

Up to 80 percent of alcoholics, however, have a deficiency in thiamine (15), and some of these people will go on to develop serious brain disorders such as Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (WKS) (16). WKS is a disease that consists of two separate syndromes, a short–lived and severe condition called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and a long–lasting and debilitating condition known as Korsakoff’s psychosis.

The symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy include mental confusion, paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes (i.e., oculomotor disturbances), and difficulty with muscle coordination. For example, patients with Wernicke’s encephalopathy may be too confused to find their way out of a room or may not even be able to walk. Many Wernicke’s encephalopathy patients, however, do not exhibit all three of these signs and symptoms, and clinicians working with alcoholics must be aware that this disorder may be present even if the patient shows only one or two of them. In fact, studies performed after death indicate that many cases of thiamine deficiency–related encephalopathy may not be diagnosed in life because not all the “classic” signs and symptoms were present or recognized.


Wernicke–Korsakoff Syndrome is more commonly referred to as wet brain and it is an extremely sad and terrible state to see a loved one in. A man or woman with wet brain may not be the person you once knew. However, that is not to say that wet brain happens over night at the flip of a switch, it is a gradual process which depleted the thiamine (or vitamin b11) in the brain. Therapy can be done to possibly improve the condition but the effects are generally permanent and irreversible.

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One response to “What Effects does Alcohol Have on the Body?

  • My father never got better, our family especially my Mum suffered from him always drinking. He nearly killed her one night, she had to go to Transition House where they counsled her to leave him as he might attack her again while she was sleeping. She was seventy six when this happened. We got her into a seniors living apartment where she stayed until her death eight years later. My father out lived her by two years, living in Memorial Pavlion a place for veterans, he died five thousand dollars in debt.

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