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What are the Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol is a part of everyday life for many Americans. From life celebrations and parties to dinners with friends and even work meetings, you can usually find alcohol present in a host of situations. While occasional drinking is fine, some people have a hard time limiting their alcohol consumption.

Excessive drinking is harmful to your mind and body. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “excessive drinking was responsible for 1 in 5 deaths among adults aged 20-49 years.”[1]

Excessive drinking can be defined as drinking under the age of 21, binge drinking, or heavy drinking. If you consume more than 4 drinks as a man and 5 drinks as a woman in one sitting you are binge drinking. Additionally, men who drink more than 15 drinks and women who drink more than 8 drinks per week are considered heavy drinkers.[1]

Once you engage in excessive drinking over a long period of time, you are at risk of a variety of adverse health effects. Being aware of the long-term effects of alcohol abuse can motivate you to seek the help you need before permanent damage is done.

The Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

First and foremost, long-term alcohol abuse can cause you to develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD), also known as alcoholism. However, it can also negatively impact every organ in your body..


While some people say that having one glass of red wine per day can decrease your risk of heart disease, correlation does not always mean causation. Oftentimes, this theory is skewed by other factors, including lifestyle choices and socioeconomic factors.[2]

With that being said, any kind of excessive drinking can lead to significant heart complications. Some of the potential effects of alcohol abuse on your heart include:[1]

  • Arrhythmias
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure


Your liver is responsible for filtering toxins out of your system. This means that all of the alcohol you consume travels through your liver before it is eliminated from your body, and when you drink excess strain is placed on the liver, so alcohol abuse can negatively impact liver health.

The possible long-term effects of alcohol abuse on your liver include:[3]

  • Fatty liver
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver
  • Scarring and shrinking of the liver
  • Jaundice

Some of the liver problems you could experience such as cirrhosis are life-threatening. While there are medical treatments you can undergo to reverse or manage the liver conditions you could develop, abstaining from alcohol abuse can prevent you from experiencing these issues in the first place.


The long-term effects of alcohol abuse on the brain are not as commonly discussed. However, excessive drinking can cause significant impairment to your brain, which is arguably the most important organ in your body.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “Alcohol makes it harder for the brain areas controlling balance, memory, speech, and judgment to do their jobs, resulting in a higher likelihood of injuries and other negative outcomes.”[4]

Drinking too much alcohol can cause nerve cells in your brain to shrink, so your brain might not be able to transmit important messages to other parts of your body. The biggest risk of long-term alcohol abuse concerning your brain’s health is the development of alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD).[5]


Your kidneys are there to filter waste and regulate the amount of water in your body. When you regularly consume excessive amounts of alcohol, it can cause your kidneys to become less effective.

Long-term effects of alcohol abuse on your kidneys include:[6]

  • Kidneys becoming unable to filter harmful substances from your body
  • Kidney damage
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Kidney failure

Gastrointestinal (GI) System

When you regularly consume large amounts of alcohol, your gastrointestinal tract can become inflamed. Inflammation of the GI tract can lead to a variety of health concerns.

The possible effects of long-term alcohol misuse on your GI tract include:[7]

  • Inflammation of the lining of your stomach
  • Nausea, heartburn, and bloating
  • Swelling of the esophagus
  • Inflammation in the small intestine

Research has found that “Alcohol-induced digestive disorders and mucosal damage in the GI tract can cause a variety of medical problems. These include a loss of appetite and a multitude of abdominal complaints, such as nausea, vomiting, feelings of fullness, flatulence, and abdominal pain.”[7]

Get Help for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

If you or a loved one frequently engage in excessive drinking, you are at risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. When you suffer from alcoholism, you are likely to develop a wide range of health issues unless you receive professional treatment and achieve sobriety. Thankfully, alcoholism treatment programs like Next Step Recovery can teach you how to maintain lifelong recovery from alcohol.

To learn more about our alcohol rehab programs in North Carolina, contact Next Step Recovery today.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Alcohol Use and Your Health, Retrieved May 2023 from
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Alcohol’s Effects on the Risk for Coronary Heart Disease, Retrieved May 2023 from
  3. NHS: Alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD), Retrieved May 2023 from
  4. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Alcohol and Your Brain, Retrieved May 2023 from
  5. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): ALCOHOL’S DAMAGING EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN, Retrieved May 2023 from
  6. National Library of Medicine: Alcohol’s Impact on Kidney Function, Retrieved May 2023 from
  7. National Library of Medicine: Alcohol’s Role in Gastrointestinal Tract Disorders, Retrieved May 2023 from

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