Many people are able to enjoy drinking alcohol in moderation, but there can be some serious side effects when a person binge drinks or drinks heavily over a long period of time.
There are short and long-term effects of alcohol that can negatively impact your physical and mental health. The effects of alcohol can range from temporary memory loss to death; in 2015, there were 8,758 alcohol-related deaths in the UK. Alcohol is also known to cause 7 types of cancer, including breast, mouth, and bowel cancer.
According to the Health & Social Care Information Centre, in 2014/15 there were an estimated 1.1 million alcohol-related hospital admissions.
What impact can alcohol have on your body?
Drinking too much alcohol can cause a range of negative effects on your body, from damaging your liver to affecting the way you look, for example:
- Regular drinking can affect the quality of your sleep, making you feel tired throughout the day.
- Alcohol irritates your stomach and digestive system – even a small amount of alcohol causes your stomach to produce more acid than usual, which leads to inflammation of the stomach lining. This can lead to stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
- Alcohol can play a role in high blood pressure, which can increase your risk of stroke or heart attack.
- Drinking alcohol dehydrates your body in general, including your skin. Drinking too much can deprive your skin of vital vitamins and nutrients. Long-term, heavy drinking can lead to rosacea, which is a skin disorder that often begins with episodes of blushing.
- Alcohol can cause your face to look bloated and puffy, it can also bloat your stomach
Your body processes one unit of alcohol in an hour, and if you drink a lot of alcohol in a short space of time then the amount of alcohol in your blood can stop your body from working properly.
Drinking too much alcohol can:
- Cause you to lose your sense of balance
- Irritate the stomach which leads to vomiting, and it can also stop your gag reflex, meaning you can choke on, or inhale your own vomit into your lungs
- Affect your breathing and heartbeat, with the chance of stopping both
- Make you dehydrated, which can lead to permanent brain damage
- Lower your body temperature and blood sugar levels
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to a number of diseases, such as:
- Bowel cancer
- Liver disease
- Breast cancer
- Heart disease
- Oral cancer
What impact can alcohol have on your mental health?
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can affect our thoughts, feelings and actions, and occasionally our long-term mental health. For many people, drinking alcohol can make them feel more confident and less anxious, however, the more you drink, the more of the brain is affected. With an increase in alcohol, there is an increased chance that you could become angry, aggressive, or depressed.
Drinking alcohol can lead to:
- Memory loss
How much is too much?
In January 2016, the government revised their guidelines and lowered the alcohol limit of men to be the same as women, down from 21 units to 14. The government’s unit guidelines state that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, and both men and women are now advised to not drink more than 14 units per week on a regular basis. If a person is drinking 14 units of alcohol per week it is recommended that they spread this evenly throughout the week.
To lower the risk of short-term health effects, the government advise limiting of amount of alcohol in one session, and drinking more slowly by alternating drinks with food and/or water. Having one or two heavy drinking sessions can increase the risk of death from long-term illness, accidents and injuries.
To find out more, read our article ‘Do you need to cut down your alcohol intake?’