What Are the Long-Term Effects of Excessive Alcohol Use?

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By Marcus Fernandez

April is “National Alcohol Awareness Month,” but before you scoff at the notion of an entire month dedicated to reflecting on the effects of alcohol consumption of people’s lives, consider that 65% of Americans ages 21 and older admit to drinking alcohol. Another statistic to consider is that more than 90,000 people die each year because of excessive alcohol use.

Anyone who drives a car should already know that an arrest and conviction for driving while impaired can result in the loss of their driving privileges, yet there were 5,018 impaired driving accidents in Florida in 2022 resulting in 290 deaths and 2874 injuries. Hillsborough County alone accounted for six deaths and 200 injured in 369 alcohol-related crashes last year.

The number of alcohol-related accidents in Florida indicates a need for people to know the adverse short-term and long-term effects of excessive alcohol use. Recognizing that a problem exists is the first step toward finding a solution.

Alcohol and short-term effects on your body

The alcohol in beer, wine, and liquor is a result of the fermentation of sugar, starches and yeast. When you consume a beverage containing alcohol, it enters the stomach and intestine where it is then absorbed into your bloodstream to be metabolized by enzymes in the liver. The process works efficiently, but the amount of alcohol that your liver can process at a time is limited.

If you consume more alcohol than your liver can process, the excess continues to circulate through other organs of your body. Alcohol slows brain function, which results in the following short-term effects typically associated with intoxication:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Impaired judgment
  • Slurred speech
  • Vision impairment
  • Memory impairment
  • Blacking out
  • Vomiting

If the level of alcohol that cannot be metabolized by the liver reaches high enough levels, it may cause alcohol poisoning where the ability of the brain to control vital functions of the body is disrupted. A person exhibiting any of the following symptoms of alcohol poisoning needs immediate medical treatment:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Mental confusion
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness

Unless immediately treated, alcohol poisoning can cause death or permanent brain damage.

Excessive drinking and its long-term effects

Dietary guidelines issued by the federal government recommend that adults refrain from drinking beverages containing alcohol. For those adults who choose to drink, the guidelines define moderate drinking for men as no more than two drinks a day and only one drink a day for women. Excessive drinking includes the following behaviors:

  • Binge drinking
  • Heavy drinking
  • Consumption of alcohol by anyone under age 21
  • Alcohol consumption by pregnant women

Some of the long-term health risks associated with excessive drinking include the following:

  • High blood pressure, stroke and heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Digestive disorders
  • Various forms of cancer, including breast cancer and cancers of the colon, esophagus, liver, mouth, and throat.
  • Weakened immune system
  • Depression and anxiety

Excessive use of alcohol can cause problems within a family. It also contributes to problems at work and may eventually lead to unemployment.

Effects of alcohol use by drivers

Consuming alcohol affects a person’s ability to safely drive a car in a number of different ways, including:

  • Slows a person’s ability to quickly process information and appropriately respond to it.
  • Increase fatigue and drowsiness.
  • Impairs the ability to concentrate on the task of driving.
  • Impaired vision with some people experiencing blurred or double vision after consuming alcohol.
  • Impairment of motor skills making it difficult to coordinate movement.
  • Impaired judgment and thought processes.

There is no safe level of alcohol consumption that a person can use to determine whether they are fit to drive. Each person’s body metabolizes alcohol at different rates, so the only amount of alcohol that drivers can consume and know they can safely drive is no alcohol.

Injured in an accident with an impaired driver?

If you are injured in an accident caused by a driver impaired by the consumption of alcohol, you may have the right to sue to recover compensation. Contact a Tampa personal injury attorney and book a free consultation to learn about the options available to you.