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What Long-Term Drinking Does to Your Health

A young man drinking a beer outdoors.Alcohol is an intoxicating substance that affects nearly system of your body. Though drinking might feel good in the moment, it can cause devastating effects on your health when consumed excessively.

You probably already know that you can die from just one incident of heavy drinking (alcohol poisoning, drunk driving accident). But you may not realize that alcohol can also cause health problems and even death if consumed to excess over time. Read on to learn what long-term heavy drinking does to your health.

When Does Drinking Damage Health?

While some people can have one or two alcoholic beverages a day and not have any significant negative health effects, drinking damages your health when done to excess.

“Excessive drinking” includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, any drinking if you are pregnant, under 21, or have a health condition, including previous alcohol or drug addiction, which prohibits you from drinking.

According to the CDC, binge drinking is having 4+ drinks during a single occasion as a woman, or 5+ drinks on one occasion as a man.

Heavy drinking is defined by the CDC as 8 or more drinks per week for women, and 15 or more drinks per week for men. So, to avoid negative health outcomes associated with heavy drinking, women must have no more than 1 drink per day, and men should have no more than 2 drinks per day.

Health Effects of Long-Term Excessive Drinking

The health effects of long-term excessive drinking are numerous. While some health conditions may only develop after years of heavy drinking, you will experience negative health effects sooner if drinking is extremely heavy.

As follows is a short list of the long term health consequences of excessive drinking.

Cancers caused by drinking

  • Breast cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Esophagus cancer
  • Mouth cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Cancer of the larynx and pharynx

Heart problems caused by drinking

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
  • Cardiomyopathy (weakening of heart muscle)

Mental health problems caused by drinking

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Dementia

Organ damage caused by drinking

  • Fatty liver disease (early stage of cirrhosis)
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Kidney disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Liver fibrosis
  • Alcoholic hepatitis of the liver

Other health effects of long-term heavy drinking

  • Alcohol addiction/dependence
  • Anemia
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Gastritis
  • Gout
  • Hyper- and hypoglycemia (high or low blood sugar)
  • Malnutrition
  • Nerve damage
  • Seizures
  • Ulcers
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency
  • Weakened immune system

For more information on the long-term health effects of alcohol, refer to this information from WebMD and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Long-term Heavy Drinking and Addiction

Alcohol addiction is a primary consequence of long-term drinking, and since it is what makes you continue to drink, addiction is responsible for virtually all of alcohol’s negative health consequences.

Many people begin drinking moderately, but they find themselves drinking more and more, ultimately losing control over their alcohol use and becoming addicted.

A person named Faye shared their personal experience with alcohol with Foundation for a Drug-Free World:

My addiction built steadily and, before I realized it, I had become a morning as well as an afternoon drinker.

Faye said that she tried to stop drinking, but when she started to wake up in the middle of the night shaking and needing to drink, she realized she was addicted and could not quit on her own.

Stories like Faye’s are all too common, as for many people, what starts as something fun quickly spirals out of control.

Getting Help for Alcohol Addiction

Please seek help for alcohol addiction before it’s too late. Call us today at 877-415-4060 to learn about our residential alcohol addiction treatment and receive confidential information for yourself, or a loved one struggling with addiction. The decision to get alcohol addiction treatment could be life-saving.