How Alcoholism Impacts Your Long-Term Health

While most people drink alcohol for its short-term benefits, it can have long-term effects on the body and mind. Alcohol not only increases the risk of accidents, but it can also affect us in other ways. Here, we discuss the effects of alcohol on mental, physical, and emotional health.

Liver Disease and Damage

In alcohol rehab treatment, patients learn about the effects of alcohol on liver health. The liver serves a crucial purpose: it breaks down toxins and filters them out of the body. When we drink too fast and too much, the liver can’t do its job.

With time, excessive alcohol consumption causes scar tissue buildup and slowly kills liver cells. Alcohol use disorders often lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, and alcoholic hepatitis, among other liver diseases.

Stomach Issues

Alcohol is highly acidic, meaning that it can burn the lining of the stomach. Acid buildup creates nausea and heartburn, which can lead to chronic gastritis, ulcers, and esophageal erosion.

Overconsumption of alcohol also affects the digestive system’s function, making it harder for the intestines to absorb vital nutrients. Weight gain, diarrhea, pancreatitis, and gastric distress are all unmistakable signs of alcohol overuse.


Research shows a definitive connection between alcohol use disorder and cancer. Alcohol damages cells in the larynx, mouth, esophagus, and throat, and it amplifies the cancer-causing properties of tobacco.

When people overconsume alcohol, they’re more susceptible to cancers of the colon, neck, head, intestines, breast, and liver. The US Department of Health and Human Services classifies alcohol as a carcinogen, and it causes thousands of cancer deaths each year.

Neurological Problems

The more one drinks, the harder it is for them to speak, move, think, and remember things. Alcohol affects neural pathways, and heavy consumption is linked to depression, anxiety, dementia, nerve damage, and epilepsy.

Cardiovascular Disease

Overconsumption of alcohol increases blood-borne cholesterol and fat levels, and it makes it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. As the heart struggles to do its job, a person with alcohol use disorder may be at an increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, blood clots, cardiomyopathy, and atrial fibrillation.

Kidney Problems

When we drink alcohol, it goes into the stomach and is taken into the bloodstream. The kidneys flush contaminants—including alcohol—from the body, but alcohol inhibits kidney function and increases the risk of renal failure and disease.


When people drink, they’re much more likely to undereat, which decreases blood iron levels and increases the risk of anemia. With a low red blood cell count, drinkers are more vulnerable to ulcers, circulatory diseases, and inflammation.


A type of arthritis, gout develops when uric acid builds up in joints. While purine-rich foods such as shellfish and red meat are a primary cause, alcohol can also lead to gout.

Poor Sleep

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and many people take it for its sedative effects. Once the sleepy buzz wears off, however, alcohol decreases sleep quality. Those who drink too much may find it hard to stay asleep, and they’re much more likely to suffer from insomnia and sleep apnea.

Decreased Immunity

Overconsumption of alcohol weakens the immune system—and it only takes one episode to decrease immunity. Regular drinking inhibits the body’s ability to fight infection, leaving those with alcohol use disorders at a greater risk of illness.

Getting Help

Alcohol’s long-term effects are devastating, but they’re largely reversible. If you’re worried about how alcohol affects your health, help is available at a local rehabilitation and treatment center.