Negative Effects of Alcohol Abuse on the Body

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Depending on the individuals drinking pattern and even the type of alcoholic beverage, alcohol can easily damage a person’s physical health. Many physiological factors are taken into account to estimate the harm that alcohol causes. These include weight and body size, age, drinking experience, genetics, nutrition, biological health, and emotional or mental health disorders.

A person who often drinks and/or heavily can experience adverse outcomes because of alcohol. The organs that are damaged include the liver, brain, heart, pancreas, and immune system. Still, the organ that leads to the most complex physical problems that agitate an alcohol use disorder is the brain.

Alcohol consumption, notably heavier drinking, is a significant risk factor for many health problems and, thus, is a major contributor to the global disease burden. Alcohol is the underlying cause of more than 30 medical conditions and a contributing factor to many more. (NIH, 2011)

Why is Alcohol Bad for the Brain?

Alcohol abuse will inhibit chemical signals between brain cells, causing dysfunction between hyperactivity and normal chemical reactions. Heavy drinking leads to a reduction in the neurotransmitter GABA which is what the body uses to reduce stress naturally. Since alcohol replicates the effects of GABA, the brain is slower to negate nervous system responses.

When people wake up after a night of drinking, they feel shaky, sweaty, nauseous, and anxious. This is the brain overreacting to the lack of GABA or alcohol, and the person will feel like drinking again to relieve the nervous energy that the brain is no longer moderating by itself.

The central nervous system is responsible for helping us react, and without standard functioning GABA chemicals, a person who drinks excessively or even mildly will feel uncomfortable and scared.

The brain requires alcohol to regulate the out-of-whack GABA, norepinephrine, and glutamate balance; alcoholics must drink to calm their nerves or stop withdrawals.

How Does Alcohol Hurt the Liver?

Excessive alcohol consumption can significantly affect the liver and contribute to three main types of liver disease. The first is Fatty liver, the earliest stage of alcohol-related liver disease. Fatty liver is not likely to show symptoms, but it can get enlarged and cause mild pain. Alcoholic hepatitis affects most heavy drinkers who do not stop during their lifetime.

This type of hepatitis causes the liver to become inflamed and stop working. It can become severe and cause jaundice, nausea and vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. Cirrhosis of the liver occurs when someone drinks excessively for ten or more years.

Cirrhosis means scarring, and the damaged liver tissue builds up and replaces most of the liver cells, causing death to the liver. Unfortunately, this condition is not irreversible, even if someone quits drinking.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

When people can no longer control how much they drink, they become physically dependent on alcohol. This type of alcoholism is severe, and this person will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Most alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin as soon as the alcohol wears off in the body. This can be as few as four hours after the last drink. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Rapid pulse
  • High blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Shakiness
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations

These statistics are horrifying when we look at the situation across the country:

Approximately 20 million adults ages 18 and older have an alcohol use disorder. (NIAAA)

Our Recommended NJ Alcohol Detox Programs

Alcohol detox will ensure the person is medicated to prevent alcohol withdrawal symptoms and allow them to rest. Emotional and mental health are monitored and supported in alcohol detox. All patients meet with a counselor and psychiatric professional to help them enter recovery.

Although detox is the beginning of sobriety for many people, it does not cure or end the desire to drink again. We offer inpatient, outpatient, and intensive outpatient programs for long-term recovery.

There are other indicators of alcoholism besides alcohol withdrawal symptoms you can look for. During a brief phone call, our professional counselors can tell you if you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol use disorder and what the best detox and treatment program is for them.

Medically Reviewed: January 17, 2023

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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