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Effects of Alcohol Use

Understand the long term and short-term effects of alcohol before drinking.

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I want to learn about treatment options for:


2 Basic Information
The Person is:
years old


graduated high school

3 Condition Information
Caron Treatment Centers accepts patients aged 13 years or older. For more information on services available to those 12 and under, please learn more about Caron's Student Assistance Program.

Short-term effects of alcohol use and abuse

Alcohol (also known as ethanol or ethyl alcohol) is a psychoactive drug that acts as a central nervous system depressant. Alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells and all other cells and affects various centers in the brain. Even moderate consumption of alcohol causes immediate effects, such as lowered inhibitions, increased relaxation and dulled senses.

As alcohol consumption (and blood alcohol) increases, users may experience:

  • heightened emotional responses (including anger and aggression)
  • lack of coordination
  • poor balance
  • slurred speech
  • dizziness
  • disturbed sleep
  • nausea and vomiting

Alcohol affects the body in stages, causing various states of being, including:

  • relaxation
  • euphoria
  • excitement
  • confusion
  • stupor

Extreme alcohol consumption can cause memory loss (blackouts), complete loss of coordination and alcohol poisoning. In some cases, alcohol overdose can be fatal.

Other short term effects of alcohol include harm to the body’s tissues:

  • Stomach: Alcohol irritates the stomach and intestine lining and increases stomach acid secretion. This causes vomiting.
  • Skin: Alcohol increases blood flow to the skin, causing users to sweat and appear flushed.
  • Muscles: Alcohol and reduces blood flow to the muscles, causing muscle aches (most notably felt as the alcohol leaves the system.) This effect is often called a hangover.

The severity of the effects of alcohol is dependent on a variety of factors including the weight, age and sex of the individual consuming the alcohol and how much was eaten before and during consumption. Alcohol is eventually metabolized and eliminated from the system at a rate of 13 to 18 mg per hour.

Long-term effects of alcohol abuse.

Excessive use can lead to abuse and dependence, both of which may ultimately require treatment. Individuals who abuse alcohol may develop physical symptoms upon abrupt discontinuation or drastic reduction of alcohol consumption. As with any drug addiction, physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms from alcohol will develop in anyone who has regularly been drinking heavily for an extended period of time if and when intake is suddenly curtailed.

Despite its negative effects, alcohol abuse and addiction can be successfully managed. Caron’s holistic approach to alcohol addiction treatment can lead to recovery and restore lives.