December 13, 2023

How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

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Alcohol can induce both immediate, short-term effects, such as reduced inhibitions, and enduring long-term consequences, including a compromised immune system.

How alcohol affects the body may not be immediately perceptible, but it begins with the first sip. Whether it’s the swift onset of a warm buzz or the less pleasant experiences of wine-induced headaches or morning-after hangovers, if you consume alcohol, you’ve likely encountered its effects. Since these effects are fleeting, they may not raise significant concerns, especially if you are not a frequent drinker. Any consumption of alcohol has the potential to trigger adverse outcomes, though. This guide addresses what can alcohol do to you and issues that include:

  • How does alcohol affect the body?
  • How does alcoholism affect the body?
  • How does alcohol affect the body long-term?

The Effects of Alcohol

What effects does alcohol have on the body, then? Immediate effects may include:

  • Sensations of relaxation or drowsiness
  • Slowed or slurred speech
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Changes in hearing, vision, and perception
  • A feeling of euphoria or giddiness
  • Difficulty focusing or making decisions
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Loss of coordination
  • Blackouts – loss of consciousness or memory gaps

Some effects, like a relaxed mood or lowered inhibitions, may quickly emerge after just a single drink, while other negative effects of alcohol like slurred speech or loss of consciousness, may become apparent after consuming several drinks.

Dehydration-related effects, including nausea, headaches, and dizziness, may have a delayed onset and can be influenced by the type and quantity of alcohol consumed, as well as hydration practices.

Despite their short-lived nature, these effects should not be underestimated, as impulsivity, loss of coordination, and mood changes can impact judgment and behavior, contributing to broader consequences such as accidents, injuries, and subsequent regrets.

Moving beyond immediate effects, persistent alcohol use can lead to enduring concerns, affecting not only mood but also overall health. Long-term repercussions of frequent alcohol consumption may include:

  • Persistent mood changes, including anxiety and irritability
  • Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
  • Weakened immune system, increasing susceptibility to illness
  • Altered libido and sexual function
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Elevated tension and conflict in romantic and family relationships
A man looking into the distance wondering: What does alcohol do to your body?

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Body?

The impact of alcohol on the body is multifaceted, influencing various physiological systems. Some key ways in which alcohol affects the body include:

Depression of the CNS (central nervous system)

Alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant, slowing down brain activity. This can result in impaired coordination, slurred speech, and a decrease in cognitive function.

Cardiovascular complications

While moderate alcohol consumption may have some cardiovascular benefits, excessive and chronic use can lead to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and an increased risk of heart disease.

Liver function

The liver plays a crucial role in metabolizing alcohol. Prolonged alcohol use can lead to liver inflammation, fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis.

Digestive system impact

Alcohol can irritate the digestive tract, potentially leading to issues such as gastritis, acid reflux, and inflammation of the pancreas.

Immune system suppression

Chronic alcohol use can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and illnesses.


Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it increases urine production and contributes to dehydration. This can result in symptoms such as headaches and dizziness.

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Mind?

Alcohol’s influence extends beyond the physical aspects of the body, impacting mental and cognitive functions. Key ways in which alcohol affects the mind include:

Impaired cognitive function

Alcohol impairs cognitive abilities, affecting memory, attention, and decision-making. This can lead to poor judgment and risky behaviors.

Emotional impact

Alcohol can alter mood and emotions. While it may initially induce feelings of relaxation or euphoria, excessive consumption can contribute to irritability, anxiety, and even depression.

Sleep disruption

Although alcohol may initially induce drowsiness, it disrupts the sleep cycle, leading to fragmented and less restorative sleep.

Increased risk of mental health disorders

Chronic alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. It can exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions.

Tolerance and dependence

Continued alcohol use can lead to tolerance, requiring higher amounts to achieve the desired effects. This may eventually progress to dependence, where the person experiences withdrawal symptoms when not consuming alcohol.

Alcohol-induced psychosis

In severe cases, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to alcohol-induced psychosis, characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and impaired perception of reality.

Understanding the comprehensive impact of alcohol on both the body and mind can help people make more informed choices about alcohol consumption and seek support when needed.

Alcoholism Side Effects

Alcoholism – the informal descriptor for alcohol use disorder – can have profound and lasting effects on various aspects of a person’s health and well-being. Prolonged and excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a range of physical, mental, and social consequences. Here are some of the long-term effects associated with alcohol addiction:

Liver damage

Chronic alcohol abuse can result in liver diseases like fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis. The liver plays a key role in metabolizing alcohol, and over time, excessive drinking can overwhelm its ability to function properly.

Problems with heart health

Persistent alcohol abuse is linked to cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (weakening of the heart muscle), and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Neurological impairments

The central nervous system is highly susceptible to the effects of alcohol. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to neurological disorders, such as peripheral neuropathy, cognitive deficits, and an increased risk of conditions like dementia.

Mental health disorders

Alcohol addiction is often associated with mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Continued alcohol abuse can exacerbate these conditions and may contribute to the development of more severe mental health disorders.

Social and relationship consequences

Alcohol addiction can strain relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. Those battling alcoholism may face social isolation, employment difficulties, and financial problems due to their addiction.

Increased risk of cancer

Chronic alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, including liver, breast, esophageal, and colorectal cancer.

Weakened immune system

The immune system can be compromised by long-term alcohol abuse, making people more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

Nutritional deficiencies

Alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients. Long-term alcoholism can lead to malnutrition and deficiencies in important vitamins and minerals.

Tolerance and dependence

Over time, the body may develop a tolerance to alcohol, requiring higher amounts to achieve the desired effects. Dependence can also develop, leading to withdrawal symptoms when alcohol consumption is reduced or stopped.

Risk of accidents and injuries

Impaired coordination and judgment associated with alcohol use increase the likelihood of accidents and injuries. This risk persists in the long term for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction.

If you are dealing with alcohol use disorder, treatment options include counseling, support groups, and medical interventions. Treatment can assist in managing the addiction and mitigating its long-term effects. Early intervention is key to improving outcomes and enhancing the overall quality of life for those affected by alcohol addiction.

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Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

Alcohol addiction is a progressive condition that gets worse unless treated. Instead of allowing things to deteriorate, engage with immersive inpatient alcohol rehab at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California. Choose from locations at Long Beach and Newport Beach, CA. All locations are welcoming and pet-friendly, promoting whole-body recovery from alcoholism.

Engaging with our supervised medical detox program will reduce the intensity of alcohol withdrawal. you can access medications and benefit from continuous care over a week or so of supervised detox. Having addressed the issue of physical dependence, you can move into an ongoing treatment program to tackle the psychological aspect of alcohol addiction.

All programs offer a personalized combination of the following interventions:

Call 800-994-2184 and move beyond alcohol addiction.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.
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Sober Living

Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Outpatient Treatment

Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.
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Drug & Alcohol Detox

A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

Use Our 24 Hour text line. You can ask questions about our program, the admissions process, and more.