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Short and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Written on December 15, 2023
Short and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Knowing the effects of alcohol abuse is crucial to getting proper care and support for healing and recovery. Alcohol abuse takes a huge toll on the individual’s health and overall well-being. It can affect their relationships with family and friends, their professional life, their social life and potentially can lead to issues with law enforcement.

Social drinking, or drinking when out with friends or family, can easily turn into an issue with binge drinking. This is where large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short amount of time. Binge drinking can then lead to problem drinking, where the body begins to develop a tolerance and requires alcohol to function. The impact that alcohol abuse can have on an individual’s life can be devastating. Overcoming the struggle can help to prevent further impact, as well as help to reverse some of the impacts it has had thus far.

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Short term, the effects of alcohol can seem almost fun. The intoxication, lowered inhibitions, and overall “happy” feeling that alcohol can produce almost feels like a reward to the body. However, these effects are short-lived. When too much alcohol is introduced into the system, it can cause the body to become intoxicated, making it difficult to function. Slurred speech, impaired motor and cognitive function, and bursts of anger can occur.

Often, when larger amounts of alcohol are consumed, the individual experiences a hangover as a result. The “cure” for a hangover is sometimes viewed to be drinking more alcohol. When this happens, the individual runs the risk of building a tolerance to the substance. 

Legal Issues and Behavioral Problems

Alcohol is a CNS depressant. It causes lowered inhibitions, resulting in behaviors that wouldn’t normally occur if alcohol wasn’t involved. This can include risky behaviors like drunk driving, or other criminal activity. Often, alcohol is a contributing factor to arrest and other legal issues. Drinking can also be a contributing factor to a number of other behavioral problems like extreme mood swings, angry outbursts, and aggression that can also lead to potential legal issues. Getting help for alcohol abuse can help prevent these issues from further impacting an individual’s life.

Financial Issues

Often, people who struggle with alcohol abuse and addiction also struggle with maintaining employment. This is partially due to the continued need to drink. It can lead to drinking on the job, deterioration in performance level, and just not going to work. When these factors play a role in job loss, or continued unemployment, the individual could potentially further depend on alcohol to alleviate the feelings of shame and guilt surrounding their drinking and financial situation.

The effects of alcohol abuse are far-reaching and can impact not only the person struggling but their loved ones as well.

Short-Term Effects on the Body and Mind

Alcohol abuse wreaks havoc on the body and the mind. Alcohol can change the chemical makeup and structure of the brain. It can lead to the person being at risk of falls and injury as a result, it can contribute to mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety, as well as impaired cognitive function. Short term, the effects of alcohol abuse can be reversible, and prevent long-term damage and suffering.

Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of alcohol abuse can be much more dangerous. These effects are why it is highly suggested to seek professional help to overcome addiction and learn positive coping skills to maintain recovery.

Alcoholism and Vital Organs

Alcohol can be toxic to the human body. It can affect vital organs like the heart and liver, and lead to organ damage. The liver is the body’s filtration system.

When too much alcohol is introduced, the liver can’t process it and it then becomes inflamed. As this process continues, the liver develops scarring. The more scarring that occurs, the less the liver functions, resulting in liver damage and cirrhosis. This condition can be life-threatening and requires medical treatment to ensure safety.

Alcohol and the Brain

The brain is an essential and vital organ in the body. The effects of alcohol abuse can change its chemical and physical structure. As the brain and body become dependent on the substance, reverting back to normal functionality can be difficult without proper care and support. 

Alcohol Withdrawal

The effects of alcohol abuse can lead to dependence and addiction. With dependence and addiction comes withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal can be extremely dangerous, requiring medical supervision to ensure safety. Depression, anxiety, vomiting, and diarrhea are some of the more severe and dangerous symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. 


Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a condition in which the symptoms of withdrawal are persistent. Withdrawal will be different for everyone, but the general timeline is as follows. Within the first 24 hours, an individual can begin feeling the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. About 24-48 hours after the last drink, the symptoms will intensify and peak, becoming more dangerous. After the third or fourth day, these symptoms should begin to subside. However, PAWS can occur, causing some symptoms to persist.

Delirium Tremens Risk

Delirium tremens, or DTs, is a condition that is life-threatening and dangerous. It usually occurs within 48 to 72 hours after the last drink. Characterized by the sudden onset of confusion, hallucinations, and tremors, it can lead to cardiovascular problems, hyperthermia, and potentially seizures. This condition requires medical attention to prevent fatality.


Treatment for alcohol abuse can help the individual regain control of their life. From detox and residential to IOP, all levels of care in addiction treatment can help the individual to gain the necessary life skills to maintain their recovery. The effects of alcohol abuse don’t have to cause irreversible damage. Getting help can prevent severe impacts, and aid in recovery.

Help for Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol is one of the most widely abused substances that leads to addiction. It is also one of the most impactful and dangerous substances. The effects alcohol can have on the body can be deadly. For those who struggle with alcohol addiction, there is help available. At Flatirons Recovery, we provide tailored care that addresses the individual’s specific needs. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol, we can help.

Contact us today and begin setting your path to a better life.