What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Alcohol?

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What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Alcohol?

When you drink alcohol, even a single beer or cocktail can affect your body. The more you drink, and the amount you consume will increase the impact. For people battling a substance abuse disorder, this impact can become severe and even life-threatening. This is why it’s so important to get help to overcome the disorder and learn to live a sober life. We’re going to take a look at the short and long-term effects on the body when you drink alcohol, as well as treatment options for alcohol use disorder.

Short-Term Effects on the Body When You Drink Alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant. When it reaches the brain, it slows down the body’s systems. As soon as you consume alcohol, blood vessels in the stomach lining and small intestine absorb it into the bloodstream. It then travels to the brain. This is when you start to feel the effects of alcohol. The effects will differ depending on how much alcohol is consumed and the person’s weight, sex, and percentage of body fat.

Definition of a Standard Drink1:

  • 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content)
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
  • 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content)
  • 1.5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

If someone is moderately drinking, that is defined as having two drinks or less daily for men and one drink or less daily for women. Heavy drinking is defined as eight drinks or more weekly for women and 15 drinks weekly for men 1.

When someone is binge drinking, they are consuming heavy amounts of alcohol in one sitting. This is seen as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men. There are signs that you’re drinking too much, but they can be difficult to spot.

The smaller a person is, the quicker and more intense the effects will be felt versus someone heavier. Some of the short-term effects on the body from drinking alcohol include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Memory lapses
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Clumsiness

Immediate Risks When Your Drink Alcohol

When people drink, they also begin to feel more relaxed and may lose their inhibitions. Alcohol impacts the brain’s functions and can lead to poor decision-making, which can pose a danger to the person drinking and to others.

These types of short-term risks include 1:

  • Motor Vehicle Crashes
  • Violence
  • Sexual Assault
  • Alcohol Poisoning
  • Risky Sexual Behaviors

While these are short-term effects, they can have long-lasting consequences. This is why it’s essential not to use alcohol to the point that you can’t control yourself or have any idea about what’s going on.

Long-term Effects on the Body When You Drink Alcohol

The long-term effects on your body when you drink alcohol can be severe and even life-threatening. Drinking can impact nearly all of the organs in your body. Here are several things that can happen when you drink large amounts of alcohol over time or on a single occasion.2

Heart Problems

Drinking too much can damage the heart and lead to high blood pressure, stroke, arrhythmias, and cardiomyopathy.

Liver Problems

Heavy drinking can damage the liver and lead to inflammations like cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, or a fatty liver.


Alcohol abuse can lead to pancreatitis. This is an inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.


Research indicates that excessive drinking can put someone at greater risk for developing certain types of cancer. These include head and neck cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, and colorectal cancer.

Weakened Immune System

When you drink too much, it also strains your immune system making you more prone to infection.
Many of these long-term effects are irreversible and need to be taken seriously. It’s vital to seek treatment for an alcohol abuse disorder to prevent these types of health problems and to have a better quality of life.

Contact Us

At Silver Sands Recovery, we help people overcome substance abuse disorders and teach them how to live a sober life. We offer a variety of treatment plans to suit each person’s addiction. We work one-on-one to help each of our clients live the sober life they deserve.

For more information on our treatment plans, contact us today.


1. Drinking too much alcohol can harm your health. Learn the facts (https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm)
2. Alcohol’s Effects on the Body | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health)

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