Many people enjoy a drink without any problems, but binge drinking or drinking heavily over longer periods of time can have very serious consequences on a person, their loved ones and their life. Alcohol misuse and alcoholism, not only harms the individual, but damages relationships and society in general in terms of violence and crime, accidents and drink driving.
BAC (mg/dL)Alcohol Effects:
As well as the recognised immediate effects of drinking too much, such as nausea and vomiting, binge drinking and prolonged heavy drinking over longer periods of time can affect you in many different ways.
Binge drinking can cause blackouts, memory loss and anxiety. Long-term drinking can result in permanent brain damage, serious mental health problems and alcohol dependence or alcoholism. Young people's brains are particularly vulnerable because the brain is still developing during their teenage years. Excessive alcohol use and misuse can damage parts of the brain, therefore affecting someone’s behaviour and their ability to learn and remember. This in turn can have a negative impact on education, work and relationships.
Drinking alcohol is the second biggest risk factor for cancers of the mouth and throat, with smoking is the biggest. People who develop cirrhosis of the liver, which is often caused by abuse and misuse of alcohol, can also develop liver cancer.
Alcohol can cause high blood pressure (hypertension), which increases the likelihood and risk of:
Excessive alcohol misuse can also weaken the heart muscles, which in turn affects the lungs, liver, brain and other body systems, and also cause heart failure. Binge drinking and drinking heavily over longer periods of time can cause the heart to beat irregularly (arrhythmia) and has been linked to cases of sudden death.
People who drink a lot of alcohol have more lung infections, are more likely to suffer collapsed lungs and can be more likely to get pneumonia. When a person vomits as a result of drinking alcohol, they may choke and can also have vomit sucked into their lungs.
Drinking too much alcohol initially causes fat deposits to develop in the liver. With continued excessive drinking, the liver may become inflamed, causing alcoholic hepatitis, which can result in liver failure and death. Excessive alcohol can permanently scar and damage the liver, resulting in liver cirrhosis and an increased risk of liver cancer. Women are particularly susceptible to the effects of alcohol on the liver.
Drinking above recommended limits can lead to stomach ulcers, internal bleeding and cancer. Alcohol can cause the stomach to become inflamed (gastritis), which can prevent food from being absorbed and increase the risk of cancer.
Heavy or prolonged use of alcohol can cause inflammation of the pancreas, which can be very painful – causing vomiting, fever and weight loss – and can be fatal.
Heavy drinking, such as binge drinking or long term alcohol use may result in ulcers and cancer of the colon. It also affects your body's ability to absorb nutrients and vitamins.
Heavy drinking can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure – a leading cause of chronic kidney disease.
impotence (lowered libido/sex drive) and infertility.
Drinking alcohol when pregnant can seriously damage the development of the unborn baby.
Alcohol interferes with the body's ability to absorb calcium. As a result, your bones become weak and thin (osteoporosis).
People who binge drink or drink excessively over long periods of time pile on the weight. This is because alcohol is high in calories. Weight for weight, the alcohol in a drink contains almost as many calories as fat. For example, the average bottle of wine contains 600 calories while four pints of average strength lager contain 640. This being the case the average person who drinks a bottle of wine a night will gain 4200 calories a week and someone who drinks for pint size cans a night will gain 4480 a week
Alcohol dehydrates your body and your skin. It also widens blood vessels, causing your skin to look red or blotchy.
Binge drinking makes you lose your inhibitions and affects your judgement when it comes to sex or your safety with new or unknown sexual partners. Being drunk may make you less likely to use a condom, which increases your risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia, HIV or hepatitis. It can also lead to an unplanned pregnancy.
People may think that alcohol helps them cope with difficult situations and emotions, and that it reduces stress or relieves anxiety, but alcohol is in fact associated with a range of mental health problems including depression, anxiety, risk-taking behaviour, personality disorders and schizophrenia.
Alcohol has also been linked to suicide. The Mental Health Foundation reports that:
Excessive drinking can disrupt normal sleeping patterns, resulting in insomnia, needing to go to the toilet a lot at night and a lack of good quality sleep. The ill effects of reduced quality sleep is known to contribute to increased stress and anxiety.
Alcohol affects the parts of your brain that control judgement, concentration, coordination, behaviour and emotions. If you binge drink, you may be at greater risk of:
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