The Short Term and Long Term Effects of Alcohol on Your Health


We are in the midst of the holiday season, and for a lot of people, that means wine, champagne, and boozy eggnog. But, how much alcohol is too much alcohol? Is it harmful to your health? What are the short term and long-term effects of alcohol?

Keep reading to learn all about how alcohol affects the body so you can decide whether or not you’ll be drinking during this year’s festivities.

The Short Term

Alcohol is toxic to the human body, but we are able to drink it because our livers filter and metabolize it. The liver can metabolize about one drink per hour. Consuming more alcohol than the liver can keep up with leads to intoxication by raising the blood alcohol content, or BAC. 

Since every person is different, side effects can vary from person to person. Some of the most common short-term effects of alcohol are as follows:

  • Flushed skin
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Loss of coordination
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Lowered core body temperature
  • High blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Fainting

The Long Term

Doctors and scientists are still trying to figure out all of the long-term effects of alcohol, as not everyone experiences the same results. What we do know is that heavy or excessive drinking, occasionally or chronically, can have serious physical and mental health effects.

Some documented long-term effects of alcohol abuse are as follows:

  • Memory loss
  • Damaged white and gray matter in the brain
  • Difficulty learning
  • Loss of attention span
  • Liver fibrosis
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Steatosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Cardiac problems
  • Increase risk of throat, mouth, breast, liver, esophageal, and colorectal cancer.

It’s important to remember that none of these effects of alcohol are guaranteed, but carry an increased risk.

That being said, there is also a recent study that linked alcohol (in moderation) to longevity. The study started in 2003 and included more than 1,600 participants. The result was that people who drank 1 to 2 glasses of beer or wine per day increase their odds of living longer by 18%.

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism occurs, typically, due to tolerance. Essentially, tolerance is when you need more of a substance over time to achieve the same effects. This often results in addiction or alcoholism.

While it might be okay to have some drinks here and there, abusing alcohol will put you on the fast track to several of those long term affects. 

It’s important to educate yourself and your family on the signs of alcoholism, so if you or a loved one needs help, and intervention can happen as soon as possible.

The Short Term and Long Term Effects of Alcohol Can Vary from Person to Person

Researchers and healthcare providers work diligently to understand the short term and long term effects of alcohol, but there’s only so much accuracy. Every person is unique and every person reacts uniquely to chemicals and external substances. This makes it impossible to predict exactly how something will react in your body.

The bottom line here is to understand the potential long-term effects of alcohol and listen to your body when it shows you the short term affects.

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