Effects of Alcohol on the Body

Robert Gerchalk

Robert is our health care professional reviewer of this website. He worked for many years in mental health and substance abuse facilities in Florida, as well as in home health (medical and psychiatric), and took care of people with medical and addictions problems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has a nursing and business/technology degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

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Alcohol in your Body

Alcohol puts a toll on nearly every vital organ in your body. Regardless to if you have one single drink or have been heavily drinking for years, alcohol can take a serious toll on your health. See all the effects of alcohol on the body.

Common Effects of Alcohol on the Body

People under the influence of alcohol often experience a decrease in coordination, perception, and peripheral vision, which can make it difficult to walk in a straight line or drive a car, boat, or other vehicle. Impaired judgment is also a short-term effect of drinking that diminishes one’s ability to operate a vehicle or certain types of machinery. Impaired judgment may also cause people to make decisions that could prove dangerous to themselves or others. For example, a person with impaired judgment may engage in unprotected sexual intercourse, use drugs, commit a crime, or otherwise do reckless things that they wouldn’t normally attempt.

When it comes to the effects of alcohol on the body, some of the common short-term effects of alcohol include headaches, an upset stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing. Additional short-term effects include dizziness, slurred speech, lapses in memory, anemia, and unconsciousness.

Drinking large amounts of alcohol can cause some long-term health effects. These are often serious conditions that can threaten a person’s life. These negative health effects impact major organs in the body, including the heart, brain, liver, and pancreas.


For example, long-term effects of alcohol use impacts the cardiovascular system, as it causes high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat (which is known as cardiac arrhythmia), heart failure, cardiomyopathy, and stroke.


The long-term effects of alcohol on the brain may include feelings of confusion and changes to one’s mood, including depression and anxiety. Memory loss may also be a side-effect of long-term or excessive alcohol use.


Excessive amounts of alcohol in the body can be more than the liver is able to handle, causing damage to its cells. This may result in alcoholic hepatitis, alcoholic fatty liver disease, or
alcoholic cirrhosis. The earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease is alcoholic fatty liver disease, and it may or may not be characterized by weakness, fatigue, or discomfort. With abstinence from alcohol, this condition may be reversible in some people. The most severe of the alcohol-related liver diseases is alcoholic cirrhosis. This disease is not reversible; however, further damage may be limited if the individual stops drinking.


Acute alcoholic pancreatitis is yet another long-term negative effect of alcohol on the body. This is an inflammation of the pancreas that is not reversible, and it can result in further problems such as malabsorption, jaundice, diabetes, and pseudocyst formation. Additionally, it is also a condition that can be life-threatening. It is important that people diagnosed with this condition cease drinking alcohol to prevent further damage. Frequent excessive drinking over a period of time can also make a person more susceptible to some forms of cancer, such as mouth, throat, esophagus, and breast cancers.

Immune System

Heavy alcohol abuse also weakens the immune system, making your body a prime target for disease and making it harder to fight it off. It is not uncommon for chronic drinkers to develop pneumonia and tuberculosis, more so than someone who does not drink alcohol. Alcohol effects the immune system so harshly that even drinking one time can make you more vulnerable to infections, taking up to 24 hours for the immune system to bounce back.

If you or a loved one is experiencing the effects of alcohol on the body, don’t hesitate to make a change. Many long term effects of alcohol abuse can be curbed before they happen if you seek help now. If you’re experiencing the effects of alcohol, please call a doctor immediately to seek medical attention.

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