Medical Consequences of
Alcohol Abuse

2021 | 3 SOURCES

The medical consequences of alcohol abuse are numerous and severe. While not every person that abuses alcohol will experience every possible alcoholism health risk, most people that drink regularly and heavily will experience some medical consequences of alcohol abuse.

According to Alcohol Policy MD, an organization for health care professionals working to change both clinical practice and social policy in order to prevent and treat alcohol abuse, as much as

  • 40% of all patients in general hospital beds (which excludes patients in maternity, 
  • psychiatric, 
  • intensive care, and other specialty units)

Are being treated for health problems related to alcohol use or abuse. Health care costs related to alcohol use and abuse total about 22.5 billion dollars annually in the U.S.

That number doesn’t include costs related to legal problems, lost time at work, property damage, and other problems that occur due to alcohol abuse, either.


Medical Consequences of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol affects every organ in the body, so the medical problems that can result from alcohol abuse are quite numerous. Possible medical consequences of alcohol abuse include:

  • Liver damage
  • Pancreatitis
  • Ulcers
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including iron deficiency (anemia)
  • Difficulty regulating blood sugar for diabetes
  • Development of Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Heart disease
  • Unintended pregnancy
  • Sexual transmitted infections
  • Complications of pregnancy and childbirth, including premature birth and low birth weight
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome in children born to mothers that drink during pregnancy
  • Certain types of cancer, including cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, liver, breast, and colon
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Gout
  • Seizures
  • Alcohol poisoning (which can be fatal)
  • Accidental injury due to things like car crashes, falls, and burns
  • Injury related to things like fights, firearms, domestic violence, and child abuse
  • Accidental death due to things like car crashes and drownings
  • Death due to homicide, suicide, domestic violence, and child abuse

Your Alcoholism Health Risk

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, your personal alcoholism health risk is greater than average if you are:

  • Under the legal drinking age
  • Taking certain prescriptions or over-the-counter medications that interact with alcohol (talk to  your doctor or pharmacist if you’re taking any medications to find out if it’s safe for you to drink)
  • You’re pregnant or may become pregnant
  • You have physical or mental health conditions that may be negatively affected by alcohol (if you’re being treated for any physical or mental health problems, talk to your doctor about whether or not it’s safe for you to drink)
  • You have trouble limiting your alcohol use to just a couple drinks
  • You have a family history of alcohol addiction
  • You are a recovering alcoholic

Talk to your doctor if you have questions about whether or not it’s safe for you to drink or what the specific risks are you face if you do drink.

People often hesitate to talk to their doctors about drinking, assuming doctors will just tell all patients not to drink or fearing that their doctors will scold them for drinking.

The truth is, though, doctors know some people drink and some doctors even drink themselves. Part of a doctor’s job is to educate and advise patients, but your doctor can’t advise you properly if you aren’t honest about your drinking habits.

Most doctors are professional and respectful of patients, but if yours scolds you or talks down to you when you talk about drinking, find another doctor. It’s important to feel comfortable talking to your doctor about difficult topics.

More than the medical consequences of alcohol abuse on our alcoholism disease 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