What Health Problems Can Alcohol Cause?


What health problems can excessive alcohol cause? Unfortunately, a variety of both short term alcohol effects and regrettably, long term alcohol effects and drinking problems such as adverse alcoholism side effects and serious physical and mental health issues can be caused by chronic alcohol abuse or by alcoholism.

Short Term Alcohol Effects and Long Term Alcohol Effects

Short Term Alcohol Effects. Some alcohol-related drinking problems, such as interpersonal relationship issues, driving impairment, and negative interactions with medications can manifest themselves after drinking over a relatively short period of time. These are considered short term alcohol effects.

Long Term Alcohol Effects. Other drinking problems, conversely, can develop more gradually over time and may become noticeable only after heavy drinking for an extended period of time.

These are the drinking problems that represent the long term alcohol effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism and help answer the following question: what health problems can excessive alcohol cause?


It is important to note that women may develop alcohol-related health problems after consuming less alcohol than men over a shorter time period.

Since alcohol affects many organs in the body, long-term excessive drinking puts a person at risk for developing serious health problems.

Stated differently, the long term effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism can lead to a gradual breakdown of different organs and systems in the body that can result in serious, if not fatal, health problems and issues.

Alcohol-Related Heart Disease

One of the few verifiable positive aspects of drinking alcohol is that drinking in moderation can actually have positive effects on the heart, especially with individuals who are at the greatest risk for heart attacks, such as women after menopause and men over the age of 45. This is actually one of the positive short term alcohol effects.

Continuous and abusive drinking, on the other hand, increases the risk for certain kinds of long term alcohol effects such as stroke, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Alcohol-Related Pancreatitis

Long Term Alcohol Effects: Pancreatitis. The pancreas helps regulate the body's blood sugar levels by producing insulin. In addition, the pancreas is instrumental in digesting the food people eat.

Repeated and continual hazardous and excessive drinking can lead to long term alcohol effects such as pancreatitis (that is, an inflammation of the pancreas). Pancreatitis is associated with excessive weight loss and severe abdominal pain and can lead to death.

Alcohol-Related Cirrhosis of the Liver

Long Term Alcohol Effects: Cirrhosis of the Liver. Cirrhosis is the formation of scar tissue that leads to the destruction of the normal functioning of the liver.

A malfunctioning liver cannot do what a healthy liver does, namely, store energy, help digest food, cleanse the blood, help fight infections, make protein, and metabolize drugs.

Although cirrhosis has a number of causes, one of the main causes is long-term excessive and abusive drinking.

Cirrhosis is a serious condition. Indeed, only approximately 30% of the people with this illness will survive five years after the initial diagnosis. What is more, the prognosis is substantially worse if the cause of the disease is continuous and excessive drinking.

Cirrhosis can be life-threatening. The good news is, however, is this: if the disease is treated early enough, it can be successfully controlled. Obviously, if the person's cirrhosis is alcohol-related, this individual also needs to stop drinking.

Alcohol-Related Cancer

Long Term Alcohol Effects: Cancer. Chronic and heavy drinking by problem drinkers increases the risk of other long term alcohol effects such as developing certain types of cancer, especially cancer of the esophagus, mouth, throat, and the voice box.

Research has shown, moreover, that women who drink two or more drinks per day slightly increases their risk for developing breast cancer. Excessive drinking may also increase the risk for developing cancer of the colon and of the rectum.

Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

Long Term Alcohol Effects: Alcoholic Hepatitis. More than 2 million problem drinkers in the U.S. suffer from alcohol-related liver disease. For example, some people with a drinking problem develop alcoholic hepatitis (that is, an inflammation of the liver) as a consequence of long-term heavy drinking.

The symptoms of alcoholic hepatitis include the following: fever, jaundice (an abnormal yellowing of the urine, skin, and the eyeballs), and abdominal pain.

If the individual persists in drinking, moreover, alcoholic hepatitis can be fatal. If the problem drinker stops drinking, however, alcoholic hepatitis is frequently reversible.

Long Term Alcohol Effects: Cirrhosis. Approximately10 to 20 % of the problem drinkers who drink excessively develop cirrhosis of the liver (that is, a scarring of the liver).

Alcoholic cirrhosis can be fatal if the person with the drinking problem continues to drink. Even though cirrhosis is irreversible, if the problem drinker stops drinking, his or her chances of survival can improve dramatically.

Although some people with a drinking problem may eventually need a liver transplant as a last resort, numerous problem drinkers with cirrhosis who abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages can receive treatment and may never require liver transplantation.

Other Long Term Alcohol Effects

In addition to the diseases outlined above, excessive drinking over time is also associated with the following alcohol-related problems:

  • Nerve damage

  • Epilepsy

  • Irritated stomach lining and bleeding from stomach ulcers

  • Loss of brain cells

  • Vitamin deficiency

  • Muscle disease

  • Obesity

  • Sexual problems

  • Infertility

  • Skin problems

Conclusion: What Health Problems Can Alcohol Cause?

Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Side Effects. Based on the above, it can be concluded that excessive drinking over time can frequently result in physical damage, it can increase the risk of getting various diseases, and it can make existing diseases worse. What is more, repeated hazardous and excessive drinking can and does often result in alcohol addiction and various alcoholism side effects.


In short, hazardous and abusive drinking can and does result in a number of short term alcohol effects, and worse, long term alcohol effects and drinking problems. Earlier, we asked the following question: what health problems can excessive alcohol cause?

Now that you know the answer to this question, you are in a better position to understand the moral of the story: if you want to avoid the long term effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism such as unnecessary health problems, negative alcoholism side effects, and drinking problems later in life, drink in moderation or not at all.

And if you are a "problem drinker," you need to get a drinking assessment so that the appropriate treatment can be undertaken.