What Are The Effects Of Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol abuse is excessive consumption of alcohol. In cases of alcohol abuse, an individual may not be dependent on alcohol, yet alcohol causes them serious problems with their health, home life, career, and studies. Binge drinking and heavy drinking are both types of alcohol abuse, but they are also signs of alcoholism or alcohol dependence; addiction to the drug alcohol.
Many people can drink alcohol moderately without any problems because they know their limits and drink responsibly. Drinking alcohol is not necessarily dangerous, but drinking too much and too often certainly is.
Alcohol abuse can cause a variety of negative effects, both on the drinker and their loved ones. Someone facing alcohol abuse may experience mild, moderate, or severe effects, and every person is different.
There are numerous factors that influence how alcohol abuse impacts each individual differently. The way alcohol affects individuals varies based on factors such as:
- Amount of alcohol consumed
- Length of time drinking
- Use of additional substances
Combining substances like cocaine or opioids with alcohol can create different traits in behavior and dangerous side-effects, such as alcohol overdose.
Alcohol use disorders (AUD) can wreak havoc in an individual’s personal and professional life. Not only can alcohol abuse complicate someone’s family and relationships, but it can also affect his or her health. In some cases, alcohol can increase feelings of depression and anxiety, resulting in strained relationships and poor job performance. A tragically common effect of alcohol abuse is the transition into the addiction to alcohol, or alcoholism. At worse, it can cause fatal or non-fatal overdoses of alcohol, also called alcohol poisoning.
Behavioral And Emotional Effects If Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse can create several noticeable signs which impact behavior. Some of the most obvious signs are directly between the person with the drinking problem and their relationship with alcohol. A glaring sign is someone who is frequently drunk, or drinks to excess both in social settings and alone.
Someone may drink despite suffering negative financial consequences, drink alone and skip social events to isolate oneself, may become reckless when intoxicated, stumble or become clumsier when drinking. A very typical symptom of an alcohol problem becoming worse is when an individual makes “rules” for their drinking and then breaks their own rules (for example, “I won’t drink during the week,” and then they decide that Thursday is the first day of the weekend).
Consequential Effects Of Alcohol Abuse: Aggression And Violence
It is not uncommon for those who overindulge to have more arguments or become hostile, victimizing others through their behavior. A consequential effect of alcohol abuse is reckless or aggressive behavior. In fact, studies have confirmed that alcohol can bring out anger, resulting in fighting and even domestic violence. A 2017 report surveyed 67 male graduates who were engaged or dating at the time of the study. Studies found alcohol increased their aggression levels and caused them to exhibit poor anger management. The study also found the increase of sexual aggression in otherwise calm men. This is a result of alcohol lowering inhibitions and reducing judgement and reasoning.
Drinking too much can cause someone to release repressed emotions or become bolder compared to their sober self. For example, someone who is reserved may “loosen up” as alcohol creates “positive” feelings and lowers inhibitions. Someone can become more agitated, releasing aggressive personality traits and hurting others. A popular misconception is that people will tell the truth when drunk. Actually, although they may be less inhibited, their thoughts and words are often distorted.
Depression and alcohol use have connection, with some drinking to soothe depression while others become depressed when they do not drink alcohol. Similar to alcohol increasing feelings of aggression, it can increase feelings of depression, which can be mistaken for irritability and anger. Alcohol is, after all, a depressant.
Effects Of Alcohol Abuse On BAC Levels
Once alcohol enters the blood stream, it causes the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to rise. Although everyone handles alcohol differently, especially those with a very high or very low tolerance, BAC is the closest thing to an objective measure of how intoxicated someone is. In most jurisdictions, a BAC of 0.08 is considered legally intoxicated.
A BAC level of 0.03 to 0.12 generally slightly impacts the body, causing effects such as:
- Mild euphoria
- Shorter attention span
- Poor judgement
- Loss of control in some motor functions
- Slower information processing
When an individual has a BAC of 0.18 to 0.30, there are greater effects, such as:
- Exaggerated emotional expressions, like fear, anger, grief and hostility
A blood alcohol content level of 0.30 to 0.40 is generally indicative of extreme intoxication, and often has extreme effects, such as:
- Poor reflexes or no reflexes
- Blacking out
- Poor breathing and circulation
- Increased vulnerability to assault, loss of control, and other damage
A BAC of 0.40 to 0.50 means that the drinker is in severe danger of deadly consequences such as alcohol poisoning or alcohol overdose. In particular, BACs of 0.45 or higher can result in death.
Effects Of Alcohol Abuse On The Body
Alcohol abuse can create serious medical issues, producing shakiness, nausea and coma. Additionally, alcohol abuse can deeply affect organs and the immune system. Depending on how much someone drinks, he or she may experience short-term effects, long-term effects or both. Physical short-term effects of alcohol abuse include, but are not limited to:
- Bodily injuries from accidents
- Feeling hungover
- Lack of appetite
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Flushed skin
- Slurred speech
- Acid reflux
- Breathing problems
A common effect of alcohol abuse on the body is the deterioration of major organs. Continued exposure to large amounts of alcohol damage organs like kidneys and can also create:
- Cancer risks (throat, mouth, esophagus, colon, liver and breast)
- Hepatitis B and C
- Weight loss or gain
- If pregnant, risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) in unborn child
- High blood pressure
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Delirium Tremens (hallucinations)
- Brain and nerve damage
- Fatal and non-fatal overdose
Furthermore, alcohol abuse can complicate pre-existing health conditions. For example, if someone with diabetes has a problem with alcohol abuse, he or she can develop more troubling health-related symptoms. For one, alcohol breaks down as sugar in the body, further increasing someone’s blood glucose level. In diabetics, high blood sugar levels can result in complications like fainting, sweating, blurry vision and irritability. In extreme cases, individuals can go into a diabetic coma.
Find Help Through Recovery
Alcohol abuse can quickly spiral out of control and turn into a full blown addiction. It can also create damaging health risks if not checked. If you or a loved one finds it difficult to curtail his or her alcohol use, treatment may be necessary for recovery. Contact a treatment provider to discuss treatment options today.
Author: Krystina Murray | Last Updated: May 4, 2022
Medical Reviewer: Deborah Montross Nagel