Heartland Human Services

Effects Of Alcohol Abuse

By: Vincent Warren, Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor

Alcohol consumption, despite its perceived social acceptance, is one of the leading causes of major health concerns in the United States.  When taken in moderation, many researchers agree that it causes minimal to no detriment to the human body.  However, when over-consumed, it can cause damage -both acute and chronic - to the following functioning centers of the body:

Nervous: delays in brain functioning, including reaction time and judgment; long term abuse can lead to  severe neurological dysfunction; emotional instability can be a byproduct of cycling alcoholic binges.

Heart: long term abuse or even one binge episode of drinking can lead to cardiac arrhythmia, high blood pressure and stroke; while ‘moderate’ alcohol consumption has been shown to have some benefits in preventing coronary heart disease, the threshold of that level is not exact.

Liver: deemed the most affected organ in the body when a person abuses alcohol, resulting in fatty liver, cirrhosis, and hepatitis. 

Pancreas: overconsumption of alcohol can result in pancreatitis, which prevents proper digestion of food.

Immune System: heavy drinking decreases the body’s ability to fight infections, which has been shown to increase risks of pneumonia and tuberculosis; these effects on immune system may last up to 24 hours after being drunk.

Again, there is not magic number ascribed to what the most a person can drink without causing damage to the body.  Conventional wisdom would generalize the more you decrease your intake of alcohol, the less risk you have than before.  There is no proof that abstinence can reverse the effects of chronic and/or binge drinking, but significant decreases in consumption at least stem the deterioration of the body and it’s functioning. 

If you or someone you know consumes alcohol on a regular basis (more than 3-4 drinks a day and/or more than 12-14 drinks per week), please consider speaking with an addictions counselor to review the need for treatment and support to reduce or even quit the pattern of alcohol consumption.