Long and Short Term Effects of Alcohol

Kim Vytell
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Jefferey A. Berman MD, DFASAM
Last Updated
October 10, 2023

Part of the complete guide to understanding addiction

Table of Contents
  1. Top 5 Short-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Body
  2. Top 5 Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Body
  3. Additional Short and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol
  4. Overcoming Alcohol Use Disorder

Watching a loved one suffering from addiction can be extremely difficult for family members. They commonly make excuses for the addict, turn a blind eye, or minimize the situation. No one wants to believe that there’s a true issue, but this denial only worsens the situation. Alcoholism is a serious problem, and the short and long-term effects of alcohol abuse can be disastrous.

Learn how a drinking problem wreaks havoc in a person’s life, and why it’s essential to identify and treat it as soon as possible. 

Recognizing the Signs of Alcohol Abuse

Because of the grave consequences of alcohol use, if you think you or a loved one has a drinking problem it’s important not to ignore the signs and to seek help immediately. Signs of alcohol use include:

  • blackouts
  • mood swings
  • excuses for drinking
  • neglecting responsibilities
  • lying about drinking
  • hiding one’s drinking
  • a severe change in physical appearance

If you suspect someone has a problem with alcohol use, seek help as soon as possible from a recovery community like Avenues Recovery.

Top 5 Short-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Body

  • Injuries due to impaired judgment
  • Distorted vision, hearing, and slurred speech
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches

The short-term effects of drinking will vary depending on the intake amount and the level of tolerance the person has acquired.

Other alcohol short-term effects of alcohol include: 

  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth 
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Unconsciousness 
  • Coma 
  • Anemia 
  • Blackouts

Back to top

Top 5 Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Body

The most common health risks associated with alcoholism are: 

  • Liver disease 
  • Brain damage 
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure

Additionally, alcohol use is associated with more than 60 health conditions. Alcohol affects brain cells, the liver, the stomach, and the kidneys, causing severe damage. If the addiction is left untreated, alcoholism can lead to death. 

When a person drinks heavily, it alters how much their body can metabolize, and alcohol builds up in the bloodstream. The heart then circulates a mix of blood and alcohol throughout the body to the organs. Extensive research shows that the liver is the most affected organ because that is where the body attempts to metabolize alcohol. Overall, the physical signs of an alcoholic will vary, but the health risks are always serious.

Back to top

Additional Short and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol

Besides having a major bearing on one’s health, alcohol abuse impacts every facet of a person’s life.

1. Alcohol Effects on Employment

Excessive alcohol use directly affects one’s ability to hold a job and provide for one’s family or oneself. When someone has an addiction, their entire life revolves solely around the addiction and feeding it. Daily responsibilities such as a job or career, family, and other obligations fall by the wayside. While some people who abuse alcohol may have a high tolerance, they are still not fully functioning, and this often leads to job loss.

2. Alcohol Effects on Relationships

Addiction doesn’t just affect the individual. An addict’s family and friends also suffer as they watch their loved one struggle with the disease. Addiction changes people; it changes their personality, how they communicate, and how they live. Alcohol effects on social life are unavoidable, and when an addict’s social circle dwindles as a result of their addiction, it can cause further emotional issues.

Alcoholism varies from person to person, and each one may react to addiction in a different way. Some become docile and sleep for long periods, whereas others become argumentative and engage in destructive behaviors. As a family member, watching someone you love struggle with an addiction is extremely difficult. But the longer it’s ignored, the worse the disease will become, so it’s so important to try to get an alcoholic the help they desperately need.

3. Legal Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholism can cause the individual to run the risk of developing legal issues. Many addictions lead to serious criminal behavior because substances can alter a person’s way of thinking and dealing with situations. 

Some of the most common alcohol-related offenses include:

  • Theft 
  • Disorderly conduct 
  • Illegal Driving 
  • Property damage 
  • Assault 

If an individual is charged with a crime that resulted from them abusing a substance, that could further exacerbate their legal troubles. The only way to prevent these legal troubles is to seek help and begin the road to recovery

According to a 2023 report from the NCDAS [1], 80% of prison inmates abuse drugs or alcohol. As well, over 7000 homicides a year have alcohol as a contributing factor, while approximately 10,500 deaths annually are due to drunk driving.

4. Alcohol Addiction’s Downward Spiral

Alcohol addiction is a progressive disease that only gets worse if left untreated. The effects of chronic alcohol abuse on the body are dangerous and potentially fatal. When someone continues to abuse alcohol for a long period, they are essentially poisoning their body. The medical term for untreated alcohol addiction is “alcohol poisoning” due to the level of toxic poisons that have wreaked havoc on the mind and body. When an addiction goes unchecked, it only leads down a darker path where the individual continues to consume dangerous levels while their health deteriorates.

Overcoming Alcohol Use Disorder

Now that you understand the grave long and short-term effects of alcohol, it’s important not to delay getting help if you have a drinking problem. Every day under the control of alcohol addiction will increase the damage to your body, relationships, and life. Seeking help immediately can prevent serious short and long-term effects of alcohol abuse, and reduce irreparable damage to you and your loved ones. 

Alcoholism won’t get better over time or taper off; it needs to be dealt with by professionals who know the best way to help. Don’t put off treatment because of fear. Avenues Recovery substance abuse professionals won’t judge you and genuinely have your best interest in mind.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about beginning your path to recovery, please contact our team today. 

Back to top


[1] drugabusestatistics.org

Contact us or call now!
1- 888-683-0333
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • By submitting this form. I am providing express written consent to contact me by SMS at the phone number provided.

Related Alcohol Reading

Get help now

Call 24/7 888-683-0333

Enter your information below and one of our outreach coordinators will contact you immediately.

  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • By submitting this form. I am providing express written consent to contact me by SMS at the phone number provided.

I'm standing by
ready to help you

Brooke Abner,

Motivational Coach