Alcoholism Cause and Effects

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : FEBRUARY 11, 
| 2 Sources

Studies show that alcoholism cause and effects vary by person. This is a highly individualized disease. There is a wide assortment of pieces that create the puzzle of alcoholism and these pieces, in turn, influence the effects of alcoholism in the individual.

Evidence reveals that there are likely genetic markers that influence how easily a person becomes addicted, and that children of alcoholics have a higher risk of addiction, just to name two.

However, there are some elements that are the same for all individuals. There are common effects of alcoholism that result from prolonged use. This is why it's important to seek professional help as soon as possible if you think you may be developing a problem with alcohol abuse or addiction.

Though it may not be easy to admit at first, the effects of alcoholism can make it harder and harder to live life normally; even if you continue to meet your obligations (at work, school, etc.).

Alcoholism Cause and Effects: Social, Physical, and Gender

Ongoing research into alcoholism reveals that there are strong social, physical and genetic contributors to this disease. For example, social peer pressure is one factor in underage drinking, as is the overall availability of alcohol in homes and stores.

Among adults social gatherings with alcohol create an atmosphere of acceptance in which those prone to over-indulgence can blend in, often not even realizing they have a problem.

Physically, one of the effects of alcoholism is an alteration of the chemicals in the brain, specifically those that inhibit risky behavior, making it easier to over-indulge (and repeat the behavior). Additionally, alcohol acts on the pleasure centers of the brain, which can become addictive in some individuals.

The question of alcoholism cause and effects is very complex, and it’s very important to remember that each drinker is different in both why the disease develops and how it progresses.

In terms of gender, men show a much higher tendency toward becoming an alcoholic. Of the 16% of social drinkers who eventually become alcoholic, twice as many of them will be men. This may have something to do with having a higher tolerance level for alcohol, the fact that men tend to drink more than women, and the way in which men respond to stress.

Meanwhile, women face more serious physical damage from over-indulging than men because of the way their bodies process the alcohol. More alcohol goes directly into a woman’s bloodstream then a mans. And while more men become addicted to alcohol than women, women become addicted more quickly than men.

While everyone knows what physical damage to the body can result from long-term alcohol abuse, it's important to understand that alcoholism also damages relationships and careers.

Alcoholism has a serious impact on one's ability to function normally in society. On average, an alcoholic will lose 7 to 10 years of life due to alcohol related problems. The effects of alcoholism are far reaching both socially and psychologically.

Resulting in loss of employment, an increase in crime rate among alcoholics, children being raised by someone other than their parents, divorce or separation which leads to single parenthood for women - leading family members into poverty - domestic violence, sexual dysfunction including impotence and infertility.

An alcoholic is 9 times more likely than non-alcoholics to commit suicide and 7 times more likely than non-alcoholics to die in a traffic accident.

Moreover, an alcoholic is 11 times more likely than a non-alcoholic to be involved in workplace accidents; alcoholism cost $72 billion in 1990 alone due to job absenteeism and lost productivity. Addiction makes performing daily tasks difficult and can affect virtually every aspect of an alcoholic's life:

  • they may struggle with relationships, 
  • employment and 
  • they often struggle with maintaining sobriety long-term. 

The effects of alcoholism can be felt at work, home, and school - and even in family relationships - where children of alcoholics are 3 times more likely than others to become alcoholic.

Interestingly enough, there is evidence that suggests a certain percentage of the population has a predisposition towards alcoholism from birth. In this case, those people must put forth great effort just to remain social drinkers as their chemical makeup makes them unable to stop once they start drinking.


Alcoholism Cause and Effects: Addiction & Illness

A physical dependence on alcohol is one of the potential outcomes of regular heavy drinking. As mentioned previously, the brain’s pleasure center may begin to crave the chemicals alcohol releases in order to continue “feeling good”. Beyond this, the long-term effects of alcoholism may include but are not limited to

  • liver conditions, 
  • heart disease, 
  • stroke, 
  • cancer, 
  • stomach disorders, 
  • poor nutrition, 
  • birth defects, 
  • memory loss,
  • sexual difficulties.

No matter what, the hardest part of alcoholism is the tendency for the addicted person to deny their problem. This denial can be very convincing, and even seem rational. Nonetheless the negative impact on the family, work, and every aspect of life eventually become undeniable.

The effects of alcoholism at least to loved ones who see the tremendous changes, touch every aspect of life. If you’re looking for warning signs, there are some simple ones that may signal secret drinking including:

  • Increased risky behavior (outside the normal comfort zone)
  • Short term attention or forgetfulness
  • Lack of sound judgment
  • Lack of coordination
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Uncertainty or confusion
  • Irrational emotional swings

Is There a Cure?

There is no real cure for alcoholism other than to stop drinking. If the drinker does this soon enough, some of the damage to his or her body may reverse itself.

However, most experts feel that a person is an alcoholic for life, and will never be able to drink socially again without falling back into addiction.

If you have questions about alcoholism cause and effects, or the long-term effects of alcoholism, do not hesitate to reach out to a treatment provider who can help you on your road to recovery.

More than alcoholism cause and effects on our alcoholism facts page

Alcoholism home page

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More