Effects of Alcohol

Long- & Short-Term Alcohol Effects

While alcohol is a powerful central nervous system depressant, its effects on the CNS are inconsistent. Sometimes, you might find alcohol makes you excitable – at a wedding reception or bar, for instance – while on other occasions, you might feel drowsy and sedated after drinking. 

When you drink alcohol in smaller amounts, it suppresses the area of your brain associated with inhibition. Alcohol also affects core functions, such as: 

  • Breathing
  • Memory
  • Thinking
  • Movement
  • Speech
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By: Renaissance Recovery

Clinically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated:


What Are the Long-Term Effects of Alcohol?

If you’re not careful alcoholism can ruin your life. It leads to a number of dangerous physical and mental health problems.

Specifically, abusing alcohol chronically over the long term causes permanent changes to brain structure and functioning. It can cause issues like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Alcohol hepatitis
  • Liver fibrosis
  • Reduced white and gray matter in the brain
  • Memory loss
  • Reduced attention span
  • Increased alcoholic cravings
  • Less gray matter in the brain
  • Problems with learning
  • Fatty liver (steatosis)
  • Stroke
  • Increased risk of various cancers
Along with these problems, one more recent problem that many people, even light drinkers are dealing with is hangxiety. Hangxiety is a new term used to describe the anxiety people feel after a night of drinking.
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Effects of Long-Term Alcohol Abuse

Data shows that alcohol use disorder is linked to a variety of mental health conditions, including: 

  • GAD (generalized anxiety disorder)
  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia

These disorders can occur independently from alcohol use disorder, sometimes predating issues with substance abuse. When mental health conditions co-occur with alcohol use disorder, this is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder.

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Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Body

Alcohol is a drug that affects nearly every organ in the body. From the pancreas to the liver to wet-brain syndrome, drinking alcohol in excess can lead to dangerous, even life-threatening consequences.


If you consume excessive quantities of alcohol, your pancreas starts to produce potentially harmful substances. If this is untreated, it can lead to pancreatitis, a condition inflaming your pancreas and disrupting digestion

Pancreatitis is not the only digestive issue alcohol abuse triggers, though. If you drink abusively long-term, alcohol can erode the lining of your stomach. This causes the production of more stomach acid. 


Alcohol abuse heightens your risk of being diagnosed with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). This is a condition commonly referred to as acid reflux, characterized by a backwash of acidic fluid from the stomach to the esophagus. Not only is this condition uncomfortable, but it can sometimes lead to the development of reflux esophagitis. This condition causes inflammation alongside the backwash of acid. In its most chronic form, esophagitis can cause ulcers in the esophagus, as well as rips where the stomach joins the esophagus. 

Cardiovascular System

Cardiovascular issues associated with alcohol abuse include: 

  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Blood clots
  • Anemia
  • Stroke

According to the World Health Organization, alcohol-related CV diseases claim 600,000 lives each year globally.


One of the other major medical consequences of long-term alcohol abuse, liver disease comes on in many forms, including: 

  • Liver cancer
  • Cirrhosis
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fatty liver
  • Fibrosis

After consuming alcohol, your liver metabolizes it and transforms alcohol into a digestible by-product. Since your liver can process only small quantities of alcohol at one time, excess alcohol continues circulating throughout your system. 

Along with the effects it can have on these organs and systems, alcohol is also a known a carcinogen and is estimated to be responsible for 3.5% of all cancer deaths in the United States.

It leads to increased risk of head and neck cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and more.

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Fight Back Against Alcoholism

Get evidence-based treatment to overcome alcohol addiction at Renaissance Recovery. Call our team now to learn more about the process.

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Effects of Alcohol on the Brain

In the short term, alcohol affects areas of the brain responsible for controlling cognitive function and motor function. The long-term abuse of alcohol can trigger permanent changes to the way your brain functions, as well as leading to possible brain damage. 

Alcohol abuse can also contribute to the development or worsening of a range of mental health disorders, including: 

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder

Overcoming Alcohol Addiction with Renaissance Recovery

If you’re struggling with alcohol use disorder and you feel the time is right to reclaim your life, Renaissance Recovery’s California rehab is here to help. 

Our outpatient programs give you flexibility, structure, and support without the expense of residential rehab. Along with evidence-based treatment programming, we offer connections to help people with the drug or alcohol detox, aftercare programming, and more

For anyone suffering from alcohol use disorder co-occurring with a mental health condition, our dual diagnosis program will help you address both these knotty issues simultaneously for the strongest chance of sustained sobriety. 

All you need to do to get started is call our addiction hotline today.

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