Effects of Alcohol on the Body



Today I have the pleasure of introducing to you Sharon T. Mclaughlin-Weber MD FACS ATN’s Guest Blogger this week. 

Effects of Alcohol on the Body

Most of us drink alcohol as a way to relax, unfortunately for many reasons alcohol affects us differently and some of us over indulge. Today, I would like to talk about what happens to our body when we drink too much alcohol.
What are the immediate effects of alcohol consumption?
As alcohol enters our bodies, the blood alcohol concentration will rise.
At first, we feel less stressed, which is one reason why so many of us like to drink. 
As the alcohol levels rise slurred speech and concentration problems are common.
The increased alcohol levels will lead to less inhibition which can lead to risky behavior. In addition, less coordination contributes to an increased risk of accidents.
It is important to note that each State has set legal limits of alcohol. For drivers aged 21 years or older, the legal limit is 0.08% (80 mg/dL).  Drivers younger than 21 are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle with any level of alcohol in their system.

What happens if we continue drinking even though we are already drunk?

Drinking past the period of being drunk can overwhelm the body’s ability to break down and clear alcohol from the bloodstream which can lead to alcohol poisoning. 
Too much alcohol will impair the brains function to control the rate of breathing and loss of the gag reflex. This is how binge drinking can lead to death. Loss of the gag relax can lead to asphyxiation if vomiting occurs. A lowered respiratory rate will allow for increased carbon dioxide and lower oxygen levels which can lead to death. 

What are the long-term effects of alcohol consumption?

According to the CDC and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism long-term excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:
Heart disease
Irregular heart beats referred to as arrhythmias can occur from electrolyte abnormalities. 
Chronic alcohol use can also lead to decreased heart function referred to as cardiomyopathy.
Digestive problems
Alcohol decreases the ability of your digestive tract to absorb important nutrients and vitamins.
Alcoholics often suffer from malnutrition. 
Heavy drinking can also cause ulcers in the esophagus and stomach which can lead to bleeding. 
Alcohol increases the risk of pancreatitis. 
The pancreas is needed to help digest food and control blood sugar levels. 
The liver helps rid the body of waste.
Heavy drinking can affect the liver causing inflammation. 
Inflammation of the liver can occur which is referred to as hepatitis. 
Chronic irritation of the liver can lead to scarring and cirrhosis of the liver.
The liver is not able to function correctly when there is scarring, toxic substances can build up. 
Chronic alcohol consumption can shrink the frontal lobes of your brain, these changes can be seen on brain imaging.
Memory problems can occur along with an increased risk of dementia with long-term alcohol use.
Damage to your nervous system can also occur, resulting in pain and numbness
Too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing certain cancers, including cancers of the:
Deficiencies in vitamin B6, vitamin B12, thiamine and folic acid can cause decreased blood counts. 
Anemia can lead to fatigue.
Immune System
Drinking too much can weaken your immune system. 
Chronic drinkers are more likely to develop pneumonia and tuberculosis compared to people who do not drink.
Bone changes
Long-term alcohol use increases the risks of thin bones. 
Alcohol consumption affects bone production which will lead to increased risk of fractures. 
Hormone changes
Chronic alcohol use  in men can decrease hormone production leading to larger breasts, erectile dysfunction and infertility.
Chronic alcohol use in women can lead to a cessation of menstruation as well as infertility.
Alcohol consumption increases the risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, and stillbirths. 
The fetus is at risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) which include births defects, learning difficulties and emotional problems.
Poor hygiene, as well as vitamin deficiency, can lead to tooth decay and tooth loss. 
Mental health 
Depression and anxiety are both common in people who excessively drink. This may be more of an association rather than a cause and effect. 
Alcohol dependence
Drinking too much will result in alcohol dependence or alcoholism.
As you can see the effects of alcohol consumption can affect just about every organ system.
What do you think about alcohol affect on the body?

Sharon T. McLaughlin, MD FACS

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Sharon T. McLaughlin, MD FACS

Sharon T McLaughlin MD FACS is the medical writer for Health Street Journal, an online health news magazine whose goal it is to inform others of medical conditions so that we can all live a healthier life. Her training was in both general and plastic surgery. CEO& Founder Health And Beauty Facts Author: The Great Escape/Bunny Tale Series You can learn more at http://www.healthsteetjournal.com

40 thoughts on “Effects of Alcohol on the Body

  • April 19, 2017 at 10:37 am

    Thanks for sharing this great informational article about the alcohol effects… Hope it reach many many people, seems that, as is socially accept it, people abuse without thinking on the effects…

    • April 23, 2017 at 8:18 pm

      Hi, Juan thank you for your visit and comment. Addiction is so much more than people not thinking about the effects. They start socially using and become addicted then it is not so easy to quit.

  • February 20, 2017 at 2:37 am

    Hi Lydia and Sharon,

    Very interesting article. I don’t drink but alway good to know 🙂
    Thank you for sharing!

  • January 30, 2017 at 12:50 am

    Hi Lydia and Sharon,

    Frightening list of reasons for keeping alcohol consumption moderate.

    Although I enjoy the occasional glass of wine, I think my consumption is moderate. When the doc asks and I tell him, he says “Err – is that per day or per week?” – and it’s per week!

    For me the extra calories in alcohol and its cost are reasons to avoid it – and it gives me headache at fairly low levels 🙂

    Nevertheless, an interesting article that more people should be aware of.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark
    Joy Healey recently posted…How To Be A Successful Networker In Home BusinessMy Profile

  • January 16, 2017 at 1:54 am

    Hi Lydia,

    I know, alcohol certainly can play havoc with your body. As a former professor of health and physical education, I used to invite speakers from Alcoholics Anonymous to my classes. I have known about the dangers of alcohol for so long. However, alcohol is also available at most social events and one glass can help us to feel calmer and more open to socializing.

    The problem is that too many people start to use alcohol as a way to soothe their pain, avoid facing problems, to suppress their personality, or just to stop the thoughts in their mind. When people drink excessively, the immune system cannot detoxify and all those potential ailments have a chance to take hold of the body. Our bodies are precious and we really do need to take care of them in any way we can. Limiting the amount of alcohol is one way.

    Dr. Erica
    Dr. Erica Goodstoen recently posted…Love Lessons For Your SoulMy Profile

  • January 14, 2017 at 3:04 am

    Lydia, I have lived around alcoholism my whole life, but I was surprised to see that many of the things listed here I did not know.

    I often wonder how many addictions begin? It seems that addictions are distractions from dealing with life’s challenges and issues. If it makes someone feel better for awhile, it can become an addiction? Do you agree?

    I seem to see a pattern too where if someone is an addict of some type, they appear to be easily addicted to other things as well.

    Here’s to people reading and researching this information and making better choices in 2017 and getting the help and assistance they need!

    Deborah A. Ten Brink recently posted…Never-Ending Spirit Of Love [Poem]My Profile

    • January 27, 2017 at 4:28 am

      Deborah yes people start off with their drug of choice but when they get bad off anything that will get them high becomes the new goal.

  • January 9, 2017 at 1:15 am

    Hi Lydia,
    I remember a story on the news and maybe you remember. There was a young couple and they’d been drinking. It was winter, They got out of the car and started walking in the snow, got tired, sat down and died. Not sure of the exact details, but when you drink your senses are altered… I don’t drink at all. A sip here and there, but that’s it. I’ve seen what it can do physically, psychologically, and emotionally.
    Lesly T. Federici recently posted…Why Hand Holding Can Yield MiraclesMy Profile

    • February 4, 2017 at 8:45 pm

      Hi Lesly, I don’t recall that particular incident but a similar one what a tragedy. Thank you for your comment.

  • December 17, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Hi Sharon. What a great article. I used to drink alcohol when I was young. It was no trouble for me to get served in bars when I was 18 – never had to show an ID. I was what you call a two-drink drunk. I seldom had hangovers, because after acting like a stupid drunk for a couple of hours I’d throw up. Lovely!

    I haven’t had a drink or cigarette or any illegal substance since 1977 when I joined the LDS church. One of the things that attracted me to the church was their health code, The Word of Wisdom. My husband, daughter, and I are in excellent health, and I attribute that to keeping harmful substances out of our bodies. Of course, Latter-Day Saints do still become ill – that’s life – but I wouldn’t trade my health for all the booze in the world (although I do wish I could have a little rum with my eggnog during the holidays!)
    DeeDee Lynn recently posted…Prepping for Winter Road EmergenciesMy Profile

  • December 10, 2016 at 3:57 am

    Hi Lydia,

    Interesting to see all the ravages of alcohol in a list like this.

    It makes you rethink your lifestyle choices, for sure.

    I’ve had several family members with alcohol related problems, and I certainly recognize some of these health issues through my observations of them.

    A bit of a wake up call for anyone who drinks excessively, or even regularly, I’d say.

    Donna Merrill recently posted…How To Build Relationships With People Through BloggingMy Profile

    • December 13, 2016 at 10:35 pm

      Hi Donna, when I work with clients in treatment they are always shocked at just how much their drug of use has affected the body. Thank you for your comment.

  • December 9, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Pretty scary, but important to know. These days my alcohol consumption amounts to an occasional glass of wine when dining out with friends, but between 19 – 21, I went through the all too familiar craziness of drinking way too much to fit in with the cool people. I never liked the way it made me feel though and one hangover too many made me decide to suddenly stop. At that age, the tough part is dealing with peer pressure, but I had an alcoholic parent to illustrate the worst that could happen so it didn’t bother me to walk away from it as much as it would some others, and all these years later I am so grateful that I did! Thanks so much for sharing!
    Marquita Herald recently posted…The Reality We Must Accept Before We Can Improve Our LifeMy Profile

    • December 13, 2016 at 10:36 pm

      Hello Marquita I too had an alcoholic parent and witnessed how bad things could get. Glad you enjoyed the post by our guest.

  • December 4, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    Hi Lydia and Sharon,
    our biggest wealth is out health and I like the quote at the top.
    If we like to drink sometimes a bit wine or other drinks with Alcohol we better
    take care od the right amount everything in moderation and together with
    medication it is not good to drink at all because the drugs have side effects as well.
    Good to take better care of our biggest wealth.
    Thank you

    • December 13, 2016 at 10:40 pm

      Hello Erika, moderation is the key to so many things we ingest. I remember my doctor telling me to drink one cup of green tea a day because it would be healthy for me. I decided to make up for some lost time and drank about 4 cups per day. My blood pressure went sky high. My doctor asked, “do you always turn something healthy into something toxic?” Turns out green tea has a lot of sodium in it which she stated many don’t know. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  • December 4, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Hello Lydia, Right there are plenty of good reasons to NOT Consume Alcohol.. Great Share
    Thank You
    Chery :))

  • December 4, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Hi Lydia and Dr Sharon

    This is a great info about the effects of alcohol on the body. Thank you so much for sharing. Take care

    • December 13, 2016 at 10:41 pm

      Hi Ikechi, glad you enjoyed this post by Dr. Sharon I will let her know.

  • December 4, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    20 years ago attended group therapy sessions, to help with anxiety and depression, at a hospital that had a drug and alcohol treatment section. Sadly, two of the people who attended the sessions died soon after, one in their 20’s and the other 50’s. Although I didn’t go overboard, I did enjoy wine in the evenings at that time (self medicating). I wonder how much that had to do with me developing diabetes a few years later. I don’t drink at all now as I try to control my diabetes by diet.
    Sue Bride recently posted…11 Practical Methods to Increase Creativity For BloggersMy Profile

    • December 13, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      Hey Sue, thank you for your comment. It’s sad when you hear about those who don’t make it once you have learned their stories in group.

  • December 4, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Lydia & Dr. Sharon,

    Thanks Lydia for bringing Dr. McLaughlin’s message to your readers.

    I started drinking & taking drugs excessively, when trying to self-treat my undiagnosed PTSD, while in my early 20’s.

    Luckily I found a doctor who recognized the signs to what was then a little known ailment. Working together, we tested different medications & dosages until we found a drug, and dosage, that’s let me live a fairly ‘normal’ life.

    That was nearly 40 years ago and I’ve been a teetotaler since. Even so, about 6 weeks ago I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. I’m wondering if it’s related to those drinking & drugging years.

    I’d be interested in hearing what Dr. McLaughlin thinks about this, and alcohol use among senior citizens. Uh, love to share the same as a guest post on my blog? 😉 Thanks, Edward
    Edward Thorpe recently posted…How To Live With Age Related Heart DiseaseMy Profile

    • December 4, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      Hi Edward, thank you for your comment. Sorry you haven’t been well will keep you in prayer. Alcohol use amongst seniors particularly mixing with prescription meds is a problem.

    • December 4, 2016 at 7:31 pm

      Hello Edward,
      Thank you for reading my post.
      Your cardiomyopathy may be related to alcohol, there is no way to definitively know. This is from the NIH,

      “Certain diseases, conditions, and substances also can cause the disease, such as:

      Alcohol, especially if you also have a poor diet
      Certain toxins, such as poisons and heavy metals
      Complications during the last months of pregnancy
      Coronary heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, viral hepatitis, and HIV
      Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, and some medicines used to treat cancer
      Infections, especially viral infections that inflame the heart muscle. “https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/cm/causes

      Alcohol use in seniors is a problem. According to the NIH the risk of several disease such as diabetes and high blood pressure is increased on those who drink.

      You are welcome to share I only ask that you link to my site as well as Lydia’s. Thanak you again, I hope you feel better.

  • December 4, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Hi Lydia,

    Good technical article by Sharon T McLaughlin MD FACS
    on medical condition on the effects of alcohol on the body. Important facts on the subject.

  • December 2, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Even only knowing a few of these effects, I’ve always thought (well, after I grew up anyways) that the temporary buzz wasn’t worth the crappy way it made me feel afterward. It didn’t take long after that to give up alcohol entirely. Thanks for sharing this info… people need to realize just how bad it is for you.
    Ruth Bowers recently posted…How To Turn Your Blog Into a CommunityMy Profile

  • December 1, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    “It can be an extremely valuable savings account” this is a great way to first off describe health. It one of the aspects of wealth we should be most considered about but many people overlook it.

    Some great information on what alcohol does to the body.

    Thanks for the value here!

    Matthew Sherriff recently posted…Karatbars International Review | Is Karatbars A Scam?My Profile

    • December 4, 2016 at 5:08 pm

      Hi Matthew, thank you for your comment. Glad you enjoyed this article. I reached a point where I realized I had put a lot of effort in so many things but not my health. That wake-up moment got me started on a new journey.


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