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The short and long-term side effects of alcohol abuse

Alcohol abuse has many devastating effects on everyone who is involved; the individual, their family, friends and even strangers.

These effects leave a deep imprint in the lives of people and can be extremely traumatic. The experiences people have which are related to alcoholism are very seldom positive and can cause ripples that travel far into the future.

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Social drinking is very common amongst all populations and seems to form a fundamental part of our interactions with people.

These social encounters that involve drinking more than one or two alcoholic beverages may seem completely innocent but may very well build stepping stones towards more serious behavioural patterns such as binge drinking and alcohol addiction.

Binge drinking is often described as drinking more than 5 drinks within a two-hour period for men and for women, more than 4 drinks within a two-hour period.

With excessive alcohol consumption in a short space of time or binge drinking, comes very serious consequences. Although some may gain overall confidence and euphoria after one or two drinks, as the number of drinks increase, so do the associated risks.

Short-term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Some of the short terms effects of alcohol abuse include:


  • - Erratic emotions
  • - Slowing down of responses
  • - Nausea and vomiting
  • - Impaired judgement
  • - Slurred speech
  • - Blurry vision
  • - Impaired coordination
  • - Loss of inhibitions
  • - Violent behaviour
  • - High risk of injury to self
  • - High risk of injury caused to others (car accidents)


Severe acute alcohol intoxication can cause:


  • - Loss of consciousness
  • - Incontinence
  • - Memory loss or blackouts
  • - Inability to walk without assistance


Although the short-term effects of alcohol abuse are unpleasant, most of the effects can be managed and do not last long. However, these effects inevitably cause more long-term issues that mostly cannot be reversed. It is important to understand that long-term alcohol abuse is usually a symptom of a deeper, underlying issue. These issues may be associated with childhood trauma, depression or unbearable stress.

Focus should be on dealing with the relevant issue in order to ultimately overcome the addiction. It is not uncommon for people to use alcohol to numb their pain or forget their feelings and although this brings temporary relief, there are serious health issues that follow as a result.

Long-term Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Some of the long-term side effects of alcohol abuse:


  • - Severe and irreversible liver impairment
  • - Depression – although some may argue that depression comes before alcohol addiction, there are studies that show that depression is more often a result of long term alcohol abuse
  • - Epilepsy – chronic use of alcohol causes damage to neural pathways which can result in seizures
  • - Gastritis – inflammation and erosion of the stomach lining which can result in ulcers
  • - Chronic pancreatitis – ongoing diarrhoea and abdominal pain
  • - Alcohol neuropathy – nerve damage which results in uncomfortable tingling in the hands and feet
  • - Cardiovascular disease
    • - Hypertension
    • - Thickening of blood which can form clots which then cause heart attacks or strokes
    • - Arrhythmia – abnormal heart beat
    • - Weakening of the heart muscle which ultimately causes heart failure


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Alcohol addiction is very serious and should be recognised and treated accordingly. These devastating effects can be avoided. If you or anyone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, seek the necessary help as soon as possible.

The AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The test correctly classifies 95% of people into either alcoholics or non-alcoholics. It was tested on 2000 people before being published.

To take this test, follow this link.

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