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  • Alcohol is a depressant that targets the central nervous system. The effects of alcohol cause impaired judgment, slow reaction times, and poor coordination. 

    Heavy drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as women who drink 3 standard drinks on a given day or 7 drinks per week, and men who drink 4 drinks on a single occasion or 14 drinks per week.

    Heavy alcohol consumption may cause you to develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This type of excessive alcohol use can cause numerous health risks. Here are ten.

    1. Liver Disease

    Those who have a high alcohol intake may experience liver damage. Repeated instances of heavy drinking can lead to a number of chronic diseases such as alcoholic liver disease. 

    There are several liver diseases you may develop such as

    • alcoholic hepatitis
    • fatty liver disease
    • cirrhosis

    Each of these may indicate that your liver isn’t functioning properly due to excessive alcohol consumption. 

    2. Cancer Risk

    If you drink large amounts of alcohol, you have a higher risk of developing various types of cancer. There are many cancers that can develop due to excessive drinking, including:

    • breast cancer
    • ​head and neck cancer
    • cancers of the mouth such as the esophagus, larynx (voice box), and pharynx (throat)
    • ​colon cancer
    • liver cancer

    3. Cardiovascular Disease

    In addition to cancer, other serious health problems may occur such as cardiovascular disease. Those who develop cardiovascular disease may experience cardiomyopathy which can lead to heart failure.

    Heart disease may cause a number of health concerns such as high blood pressure, angina, or stroke.

    4. Digestive System Disorders

    Since you likely drink alcohol, there is concern for your stomach when binge drinking takes place. In fact, drinking alcohol in excess may give you an increased risk of pancreatitis and gastritis. Alcohol may cause a buildup of enzymes in your pancreas which can leave it inflamed.

    5. Weakened Immune System

    While drinking alcohol can lead to many health conditions, it should also be noted that it can weaken your immune system overall. 

    This immune system dysfunction can increase your chances of getting sick and make it more difficult to rid your body of viruses and bacteria.

    6. Alcohol Poisoning

    Alcohol poisoning is caused when a person drinks a large number of alcoholic beverages within a short time period. Those who drink alcohol to the point of getting alcohol poisoning may lose consciousness, have seizures, and even develop permanent brain damage.

    7. Brain Damage

    Excessive drinking may result in brain damage and memory loss. In fact, heavy drinking can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome which may cause:

    • confusion
    • short-term memory loss
    • dementia
    • learning difficulties
    • impaired coordination
    • cognitive impairment

    8. Anemia

    Anemia, or having a low red blood cell count, can be brought on by a person drinking a large amount of alcohol. Because problems with the stomach can occur, one may have difficulty absorbing minerals and vitamins. Those with anemia may have fatigue and feel lightheaded.

    9. Accidents

    Other health effects you may not account for include accidents. Heavy drinking and binge drinking can cause accidents such as falls, drownings, and car crashes. Violence, suicide, homicide, and sexual assault are more likely to take place as well.

    10. Mental Health Problems

    Mental health issues may arise with those who have developed alcohol dependence or those who drink heavily. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests the long-term health risks of drinking include depression and anxiety. 

    If you need help overcoming alcohol withdrawal or dependence, please connect with us today. 

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Alcohol Research and Health - The Risks Associated with Alcohol Use and Alcoholism
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Binge Drinking
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Alcohol Use and Your Health
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - What is Excessive Alcohol Use?
    National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder
    National Institute on Drug Abuse - Alcohol
    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Alcohol Misuse

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