Alcohol is a strong depressant drug that, if abused, can have serious side effects on a person’s mental and physical health. However, if taken in small amounts, alcohol can be a pleasant addition to life without doing any serious damage.
The effects of alcohol are immediate. Usually, pretty soon after drinking, a sense of wellbeing occurs, the person relaxes and inhibitions loosen. If drinking continues, there may be slurred speech and dizziness when trying to stand or walk.
How strong the immediate effects of alcohol are, depends on many factors, including your size, weight, age, sex, and the amount of food you’ve recently consumed. Alcohol affects people in various ways and at different rates. If you are small or slim you’re likely to feel the effects of alcohol faster and stronger that someone who is larger, even if you drink the same amount. Women are generally more effected than men because they tend to have less water and more fat in their bodies. This means that, even when drinking the same amount, there is likely to be more alcohol in the bloodstream, producing a stronger effect. If you’re dehydrated or have an empty stomach, and if you drink fizzy or strong drinks, you will feel drunk more quickly as the alcohol is rapidly absorbed.
This article is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
The short term effects of alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol has several immediate effects. It can lead to people becoming over-confident, talkative, nauseous and self-centred. Judgement and coordination are negatively affected; you may have slurred speech, disturbed sleep, and vomiting. You may have more accidents than usual and painful indigestion, and are likely to experience a headache the next day (due to dehydration). Low to moderate doses of alcohol are also linked to increased aggression, including public disorder, domestic violence, and child abuse
The long term effects of alcohol
People who drink regularly are vulnerable to a wide variety of serious physical and mental health problems. The drinker may not become obviously drunk – many alcoholics are steady drinkers who maintain a high level of alcohol in their body all day, every day, without exhibiting the classic symptoms of drunkenness. Persistent alcohol consumption can lead to a breakdown in family relationships and problems at work and socially.
Long term alcohol abuse can lead to alcoholism and permanent damage of internal organs, such as the brain, heart, and liver.
Obesity and alcohol
Being overweight is often associated with the effects of alcohol. Heavy and/or steady drinking increases your calorific intake making you pile on the pounds. It is especially true if you start drinking in your early teens, as studies have shown that binge drinking when young means you’re four times more likely to become overweight or obese as an adult.
Skin problems and alcohol
Drinking alcohol is not good for the skin. Many people who drink heavily suffer from facial redness, a condition called rosacea, which gives a tendency to easily flush red and feel hot. Skin can dry out and become cracked due to dehydration, and if drinking continues some disfiguration can occur especially around the nose – a condition known as rhinophyma.
Cancer and alcohol
Heavy and/or steady drinking has been shown to cause various kinds of cancer, responsible for about 6% of all cancer deaths each year. These are mouth cancer, pharyngeal cancer (upper throat), oesophageal cancer (food pipe), laryngeal cancer (voice box), breast cancer, bowel cancer, and liver cancer. The more alcohol you drink the higher the risk you have of developing cancer. Second only to smoking in risk for oral and digestive tract cancers, it is not the type of drink you have or the way you drink it, but the total amount of alcohol you have over time.