Many Americans enjoy a drink. In fact, in United States, most widely used social drug is alcohol. But like all drugs, alcohol can damage your body, especially if you drink in binges or heavily every day.
Alcohol affects your body in many ways. Some effects are immediate and last only a while, while others accumulate over time and may significantly affect your quality of life and mental and physical health.
How much harm alcohol causes your body depends on your pattern of drinking, how much you drink, and even the quality of the alcohol you drink. Your age, gender, genetics, body size and composition, drinking experience, metabolism, nutritional status, and social factors all play a part.
The short-term effects of alcohol
The short-term effects of a single occasion of drinking too much alcohol can include:
- lowered inhibitions
- altered behaviour – including risky or violent behaviour
- interpersonal conflict
- falls and accidents
- alcohol poisoning
The severity of the short-term effects of alcohol typically depends on how much a person drinks.
The long-term effects of alcohol
Consuming on average more than two standard drinks a day may cause many long-term health problems and other harms. The alcohol contributes to more than 200 different types of disease and injury, some of the most common alcohol-related harms include:
- public and domestic violence, crime
- road and other accidents
- social dysfunction, breakdown
- cancers, including of the oral cavity, oesophagus, pharynx, liver, larynx, colorectal and female breast
- diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver diseases
- nutrition-related conditions, such as malnutrition and folate deficiency
- overweight and obesity, risks to unborn babies
- mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, and interference with antidepressant medication
- alcohol tolerance and alcohol dependence or addiction
- long-term cognitive impairment, self-harm (suicide)
In the long term, alcohol consumption can affect all aspects of a person’s life: their work, relationships, finances, physical and mental health.
How to avoid or reduce the effects of alcohol on your body
The best way to avoid the effects of alcohol on your body is to not drink alcohol. This is especially important if you are trying to get pregnant, or you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as there is no safe level of alcohol use that has been identified.
If you choose to drink alcohol, low level drinking is better for your body than heavy drinking or binge drinking.
The lifetime risk of harm from drinking alcohol increases with the amount you drink, for healthy men and women, FKSG advise:
- Drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.
- Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.
It’s important to monitor your alcohol consumption as part of a healthy diet. Alcohol consumption can cause weight gain and obesity.