People drink to socialize, celebrate, and relax. Alcohol often has a strong effect on people—and throughout history, people have struggled to understand and manage alcohol’s power. Why does alcohol cause people to act and feel differently? How much is too much? Why do some people become addicted while others do not? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is researching the answers to these and many other questions about alcohol. Here’s what is known:
Alcohol’s effects vary from person to person, depending on a variety of factors, including:
- How much you drink
- How often you drink
- Your age
- Your health status
- Your family history
While drinking alcohol is itself not necessarily a problem—drinking too much can cause a range of consequences, and increase your risk for a variety of problems.
Drinking too much – on a single occasion or over time – can take a serious toll on your health. Here’s how alcohol can affect your body:
Brain: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
Heart: Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including:
-Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle, arrhythmias – irregular heart beat
-Stroke, and high blood pressure
Liver: Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including Steatosis, or fatty liver, Alcoholic hepatitis, Fibrosis, Cirrhosis
Pancreas: Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
Cancer: Based on extensive reviews of research studies, there is a strong scientific consensus of an association between alcohol drinking and several types of cancer.
For more information on alcohol, please see the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s web page.