Alcohol Addiction Health Risk Factors

Alcohol Addiction Health Risk Factors

Table of Contents

Excessive alcohol use and chronic alcohol addiction can lead to significant and sometimes irreversible health effects. In addition, the amount you drink increases your alcohol addiction health risk factors.

What are the Risk Factors of Alcoholism?

If someone has turned to excessive amounts of drinking, they push the possibility of developing an alcohol addiction health risk. Alcohol dependency does not develop overnight. An alcohol use disorder is often the result of a long-term, adverse relationship with alcohol. Both short and long-term effects impact virtually every body system, from your brain and central nervous system to your digestive and reproductive systems.

The short-term effects of alcohol below outline the immediate impact on the body based on how many drinks (units) you consume.1The data below also assumes a “normal” tolerance to the effects of alcohol. If you meet the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder or frequently drink to excess, you can likely drink more before experiencing any noticeable effects. 

One to Two Units

After consuming one to two beverages, most people experience an elevated heart rate. As a result, your blood vessels expanding allowing more blood to circulate through your body, giving you the pleasant “buzz” associated with mild to moderate drinking. 

Four to Six Units

After four to six drinks, your brain and central nervous system experience the effects of alcohol. The parts of your brain responsible for judgment and decision-making become less active, leading to inhibition and poor judgment. You will also notice you feel lightheaded, and your reaction time and coordination are impaired. 

Eight to Nine Units

After eight to nine drinks, your speech and vision are affected. You will start to slur your words and struggle to focus. Additionally, your reaction time will be further impacted. At this level of alcohol consumption, your liver will be unable to filter out all the alcohol consumed overnight, so you will also likely wake up with a hangover. 

Ten to Twelve Units

After ten to twelve drinks, your coordination is severely impacted. You will also feel drowsy and possibly experience digestive issues, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. This amount of alcohol in your body can lead to dangerous levels of dehydration as your body tries to process the alcohol out of your system in your urine. 

More Than Twelve Units

More than twelve drinks in a sitting put you at significant risk for developing alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning leads to dangerous interference with the body’s life-sustaining functions, including heart rate, breathing, and gag reflex. Alcohol poisoning can lead to coma and death without emergency medical intervention. 

Dangers of Mixing Alcohol with Other Drugs

Mixing alcohol with other drugs, whether prescribed or illicit, can have dangerous and unpredictable consequences. The severity and type of interaction will depend on the drug and how it relates to the effects of alcohol.

Stimulants (Adderall, Caffeine/Energy Drinks, Cocaine, Meth, Ecstasy)

Alcohol is a depressant. When mixed with alcohol, stimulant drugs dull or disguise the effects of alcohol, so it becomes difficult to gauge your level of intoxication. This effect can lead to excessive drinking, alcohol blackouts, coma, and potentially death.


Antidepressants often have a sedative quality meaning the action of your antidepressant drug and the action of alcohol worked together to provide an enhanced sedative effect. This use can lead to drowsiness, increased risk for overdose, dizziness, liver damage, and in some cases, depending on the medication, heart-related side effects, and risks for dangerous changes in blood pressure. 


Although many antibiotics will not cause a severe interaction when mixed with alcohol, some can lead to two significant side effects. It is essential to consult your doctor if you struggle to avoid alcohol while taking antibiotics.3


Combining alcohol with antihistamines such as Benadryl can lead to significant central nervous system depression. Both drugs slow down the activity in your brain. Taking them together is particularly dangerous because they slow down your central nervous system too much, which can cause dangerous levels of drowsiness, sedation, and trouble completing physical and mental tasks.  

Legal and Illegal Opioids

Like antidepressants, legal and illegal opioids often have a sedative effect on the user. This factor means, when combined with alcohol, you will be at increased risk of drowsiness, dizziness, and changes in mood or behavior. In some cases, combining opioids and alcohol increases your risk for seizures, cardiac issues comma, and difficulties breathing. 

Hallucinogens (Marijuana, etc.)

Combining alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs can magnify the effects of both substances, meaning that being drunk while hallucinating can heighten a “good trip” and significantly intensify a bad one. Both alcohol and hallucinogens can lead to nausea and vomiting when used. In large doses, they can lead to significant risk. 

Alcohol’s Effects on the Mind and Body

What are the Short-Term Risks of Drinking Alcohol?

The immediate effects of drinking alcohol, those effects that occur within a few minutes or a few hours of finishing your last drink, can impact various parts of the body. The severity of the short-term risks depends on various factors, including how much you drink and how quickly you consumed your drinks. The most noted short-term risk of alcohol consumption is decreased coordination. When you consume alcohol, it affects the brain and central nervous system, significantly reducing coordination.

You may also experience digestive issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, and malnutrition. Malnutrition can stem from excessive vomiting and diarrhea that occurs as your body tries to purge alcohol from its system. Another potential short-term side effect is blackouts. When you drink excessively in a short period (sometimes called binge drinking), it can lead to something called an alcoholic blackout. This experience means your brain and your body are incapable of processing the amount of alcohol you’re drinking in the time that you are drinking it. Therefore, it affects your memory, cognition, and sometimes consciousness. 

What are the Long-Term Risks of Drinking Alcohol?

In addition to new or worsening chronic health problems such as heart, digestive, and liver issues, long-term alcohol abuse can lead to difficulties in your home and personal relationships. Unfortunately, in households where alcohol addiction is common, issues of domestic violence are common as well.

You may also notice as alcohol becomes more important in your life, your relationships tend to take a backseat to seek and using alcohol. It can lead to the loss of relationships with friends, family, and loved ones.  

What Are the Risks Factors for Alcohol-Related Health Complications?

There are many risks to the body that come from long-term alcohol abuse. Alcohol can have a wide range of adverse effects on virtually every part of your body. 

Organ Functions

Long-term alcohol misuse can lead to significant and sometimes irreversible damage to the body’s organs. The most common organs that suffer from long-term alcohol misuse include the brain, nervous system, pancreas, liver, and heart. 

Blood Pressure

Heavy drinking can increase your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Both of these concerns increase your risk for potentially life-threatening conditions such as heart attack and stroke. 

Pancreas Functions

Alcohol also affects how the pancreas functions. The pancreas is responsible for excreting gastric juices into the stomach to aid digestion amongst other things. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to an infection in the pancreas, causing the pancreas to release toxic chemicals inhibiting digestion and leading to significant illness. 

Liver Functions

The liver is also significantly impacted by alcohol use. The liver has many vital functions, including regulating blood sugar and filtering toxins (such as alcohol) from the blood. Each time your liver filters out alcohol, some of the liver cells die. Although it can develop new cells, long-term alcohol abuse can reduce its ability to regenerate, leading to liver disease.4


Another alcohol addiction health risk is cancer. Numerous studies point to an increased risk of cancer related to ongoing alcohol use. The most common cancers include liver cancer, mouth cancer, breast cancer, bowel cancer, and cancers of the head and neck. 

Sexual Functions

Challenges with sexual function can also stand from long-term alcohol abuse. Males may notice difficulties obtaining and maintaining an erection as well as problems with premature ejaculation. Both males and females may see issues with infertility. 

Mental Health Issues

Finally, ongoing alcohol use can lead to new or worsening mental health symptoms. If you currently struggle with a coworker in mental health conditions such as depression or dementia, using alcohol may worsen your symptoms. 

What to do When Alcohol Affects Your Health

If long-term drinking has increased your risk of alcohol-related health problems, it is essential to seek comprehensive addiction treatment at a skilled treatment center like Arrow Passage. Depending on the severity of your addiction to alcohol, it can be dangerous to choose to stop drinking “cold turkey.”

Without the care and support of an addiction treatment team, relapse is significantly more common. Additionally, some of the withdrawal symptoms experienced during alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and sometimes fatal. If your addiction is mild, however, and you have the motivation and self-control to quit drinking, outpatient treatment or peer support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous may be beneficial in helping you overcome your dependency on or addiction to alcohol.

Contact Arrow Passage Recovery today if you would like to learn more about how we can help you begin your journey to sobriety. 

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