Long Term Effects
of Alcoholism

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  JANUARY 08  ,
| 2 Sources

The long term effects of alcoholism can be deadly. There is really no other way of saying it. The longer a person drinks, the more profound alcoholism side effects can be on the body's organs.

It is not uncommon for heavy drinkers to have health issues with their stomach, pancreas, liver, and brain.These are the organs that are most affected by the poison alcohol.

Liver damage is not uncommon for heavy drinkers and can begin as soon as women start drinking heavily, especially if they drink more than one "drunk" a week. The liver's main purpose is to filter toxins from the blood, so it only makes sense that too much alcohol would cause problems there.

If you or someone you love struggles with alcoholism, encourage them to seek help at once. Alcoholism side effects become even worse when a person continues drinking, ignoring warning signs along the way.

While the above are the main organs most often damaged by excessive drinking, other health problems can arise as well. Some studies suggest that there is often a link between heavy drinking and certain types of cancers in the esophagus, throat, and mouth.

This can be especially hazardous with those who smoke. Other studies have suggested that women who drink to excess may have a higher incidence of breast cancer than women who do not.

Heart problems are another long term effects of alcoholism. While people who drink moderately have a lower risk than those who do not imbibe, heavy drinkers seem to be at higher risk for heart-related issues like strokes and irregular heartbeat.

It should also be noted that long term effects of alcoholism will virtually effect every part of the human body.

Associated health issues may include problems with:

  • malnutrition,
  •  memory loss,
  •  maintaining balance,
  •  problems walking even when sober,
  • cirrhosis of the liver
  • hepatitis, 
  • muscle weakness, 
  • heart problems, 
  • high blood pressure,
  •  lowered immune systems, anemia,
  •  low blood sugar, 
  • inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and pale skin.

To make matters even worse, these are only some of the many alcoholism side effects that a person may experience. The severity and duration of the symptoms will vary from person to person, and not all persons will have all of the symptoms.

effects of alcoholismPhoto by Anh Nguyen

Emotional Long Term Effects of Alcoholism

In addition the physical problems that excessive drinking can cause, emotional and psychological issues may develop as well. Some of the more common problems reported include: increased sense of anxiety for no apparent reason; an increase in hostile or aggressive behavior toward others; anorexia nervosa, prolonged depression, bulimia, insomnia, suicidal thoughts or tendencies, and hyperactivity which may include over-talking.

Other alcoholism side effects revolve around work, family and friends. Often the drinker will encounter problems at home which cause marital and other relationship problems, problems at work, often caused by missed work or poor performance, and a tendency to socialize less with established friends.

Talking about the problems that they are experiencing or seeking help may be difficult for alcoholics because their desire to hide their drinking from others is paramount.

Drinking in secret can cause a person to feel shame which leads to feelings of low self-esteem, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. These emotions only add to the cycle of addiction that is so common with alcoholism.

An alcoholic who drinks heavily will often have memory lapses that are obvious even when they are sober. When you combine this with the other effects of long term alcoholism, some people may begin distrusting those around them while others may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

The loss of interest would, again, make it more likely for an individual to descend further into addiction.

Specific Trouble Areas

While it is true that all parts of the body can suffer from excessive drinking, it is also true that certain areas may suffer more than others. This is especially true as the long term effects of alcoholism become more pronounced.

The nervous system will often experience degeneration with prolonged drinking. Blackouts are common, resulting in a loss of memory. In addition, many heavy drinkers will experience problems with sleeping. This can include periods of very deep sleep to periods of insomnia.

There can also be issues with feelings of tingling or numbness in the legs or arms. It is very common for heavy drinkers to develop tremors in their hands, and occasionally in their feet as the long term effects of alcoholism develop.

The gastrointestinal system will often experience health problems with prolonged drinking. Some of the alcoholism side effects associated with the GI system includes damage to the esophagus and to the stomach. Diarrhea is often an issue with those who drink excessively, and this can lead to dehydration.

The cardiovascular system is also affected. This is due to the increased likelihood of developing high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmias. The heart muscle itself may become weakened as well, causing congestive heart failure and even death in some cases.

Blood sugar regulation problems develop for some alcoholics as long term alcoholism side effects, and this can make it difficult for a person to maintain normal brain function. It may result in confusion or even unconsciousness if not properly treated.

Dehydration can also cause an imbalance in these hormones which will interfere with proper liver function which could lead to jaundice.

All organs are subject to damage from chronic heavy drinking, including the kidneys, liver, pancreas, bones and central nervous system (CNS).

Blood vessels are also affected because they have been bombarded with alcohol for so many years. When this happens, it makes it more likely for a person to develop anemia, thrombosis (blood clots) and stroke. Sometimes during these strokes, the part of the brain controlling speech is damaged resulting in slurred speech if not complete loss of speech altogether.

The above are only a small sampling of the long term effects of alcoholism. It should be kept in mind that alcoholism side effects vary from one person to the next. Frequent drinkers who are in doubt about any health issue they may be experiencing should seek medical advice.

Take Action to Stop Alcohol Abuse Now!

Now is the right time to stop alcohol abuse. You don't have to wait until you've had one heart attack, or perhaps several of them. You don't have to wait until your liver is in shambles and can no longer metabolize the poisons that are ingested with each alcoholic beverage.

All it takes is willpower and a sense of self-preservation. Alcoholism is not something that just goes away on its own because if it were, there would be very few alcoholics in the world today. It's going to take action to stop alcoholism, now! 


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

More than long term effects of alcoholism on our alcoholism stages page

Alcoholism home page