Alcoholic drinks harm you when you have too many of them. No set number of drinks means too much. Drinking that affects your life or your health is called alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse can hurt your relationships with others. You may lose friends, a spouse, or even your job. You may be abusing alcohol if any of the following are true for you:
Alcohol abuse causes many health problems. Sometimes this can happen after only drinking a “little." The effects depend on how much you drink at one time and how often you drink. The effects also depend on how long you drink. For example, months, years, or decades. Alcohol affects all parts of your body
Alcohol affects the central nervous system. It can damage parts of the brain that control your balance and gait, memory, thinking, and emotions. It can cause:
These changes may be long term (permanent).
Heart and blood vessels
Alcohol can damage heart muscle (cardiomyopathy). This can lead to:
Alcohol also makes the blood vessels stiff. This causes high blood pressure.
All of these problems raise your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Alcohol causes fat to build up in the liver. This affects how the liver works. Alcohol also raises the risk for hepatitis. It can cause:
This can make it harder for you to fight off infections.
The liver changes keep it from removing toxins in your blood that can cause brain disease (encephalopathy). This condition cause:
Changed level of consciousness
Seizures, coma, and death
The liver changes can also cause the veins in your esophagus and stomach to become thin and swollen with blood (varices). This can cause bleeding and vomiting of blood.
Alcohol can cause swelling (inflammation) of the pancreas (pancreatitis). This can cause belly pain, fever, and diabetes.
Alcohol weakens your immune system. This makes it harder for you to fight infections and colds. It also makes it more likely for you to get pneumonia and tuberculosis.
Alcohol raises the risk for several types of cancer. These include cancer of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver, and breast.
Alcohol can lead to sexual problems.