The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol

alcoholBooze, cold one, brewski, night cap, cocktail, giggle juice: there are many different forms and types of alcohol.

When a person drinks alcohol, it is absorbed through the stomach and enters the bloodstream.[1] The effects vary, depending on a person’s size, age, and sex, as well as how much alcohol and food has been consumed.1 It is widely popular in social situations as it has disinhibiting effects, seemingly soothing social anxiety.1

People who drink alcohol become dizzy and talkative, and as more is consumed, they will become nauseous, may vomit, and have slurred speech.1 Even at low doses, alcohol significantly impairs a person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle; however, as it is also called “liquid courage,” many still drive—causing danger for all others on the road.1

Hangovers are also common after consuming large amounts, and many wake up with a pounding headache, feeling nauseous, dizzy, tired, and thirsty.1 When a hangover occurs, your body is reacting to the withdrawal of alcohol from your system.1 Many treat it by having a “hair of the dog”—or another drink.1 It’s a cycle—and not a healthy one.

Long-term heavy drinking leads to addiction, or alcoholism.1 Alcoholism, a chronic disease, is when one has unhealthy and dangerous drinking habits, such as drinking every day or drinking too much at one time.1 It can harm your relationships, cause you to miss work, and lead to legal problems, such as a DUI.1 Alcohol also causes aggression, and plays a large role in child abuse and domestic violence.1

With alcoholism, you are physically and mentally addicted to alcohol.1 You have a strong need to drink.1 You feel like you must just to get by.1 If you cannot quit drinking or control how much you drink, need to drink more to get the same effect, spend a lot of time drinking and recovering from drinking, or continue to drink although it harms your body and relationships, you are addicted.1 When addicted, stopping drinking suddenly can produce uncomfortable and dangerous withdrawal symptoms.1 Many experience tremors, anxiety, hallucinations, and convulsions.1 Long-term alcohol use, combined with poor nutrition, can lead to permanent damage to vital organs, such as the brain and liver.1

Mothers who drink alcohol while pregnant can give birth to infants with fetal alcohol syndrome.1 These infants will suffer mental retardation and irreversible physical abnormalities.1 Children of alcoholics are also known to be at a higher risk of becoming alcoholics themselves.1

When suffering from alcoholism, professional treatment is needed.1 After safely detoxing under the care of professionals, treatment often includes group therapy, alcohol education, and a 12-step program.1 Treatment doesn’t just help you deal with alcohol, but also the underlying issues that cause you to drink.1 Treatment takes commitment and effort and is a life-long process.1

[1] Alcohol Abuse and Dependence. (2011, February 22). WebMD. Retrieved November 13, 2013, from http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/alcohol-abuse/alcohol-abuse-and-dependence-treatment-overview

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