Effects Of Alcohol: How It Affects Your Body

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : JUNE  17, 
| 4 Sources

The effects of alcohol on the body begins from the second you take your very first sip. Although an occasional glass of wine during dinner is not really a cause for concern, the collective effects of drinking beer, spirits, and wine could also take its toll.

The effects of alcohol on the body are wide and varied. Ranging from the beneficial to the harmful and, when alcoholism develops, all the way through to the potentially fatal.

effects of alcohol on the body

Drinking one drink has relatively mild effects (unless somebody suffers from an alcohol allergy); drinking alcohol in large quantities will have wildly differing effects.

The affects of alcohol can also be cumulative so that someone who drinks regularly for a long time will experience different effects.

How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

The answer to this question has changed over time, but a generally definition of moderate alcohol drinking is two drinks or less per day for men and just one drink or less per day for women. The decreased recommendation for women is not only because they are, on average, significantly smaller than men, but because alcohol impacts women differently.

Women produce less of the alcohol dehydrogenase, or ADH enzyme that breaks down and processes alcohol.Additionally, women tend to accumulate more body fat, which then tends to retain alcohol.

How Alcohol Affects The Body
The Science Simplified

Alcohol is classified as a depressant to the central nervous system. It is a psychoactive substance and toxic with dependence inducing properties.

It is very quickly absorbed into the blood stream as it doesn't need to digest like foods do. About 1/5 of the alcohol is absorbed right through the stomach walls into the blood stream.

Almost all of the remaining alcohol is absorbed through the walls of the large intestine.

Since the alcohol doesn't need digestion to break it down, it gets into the bloodstream and throughout the entire body very quickly.

In fact, it takes only one minute for the alcohol absorbed through the stomach to get to your brain.

How Alcohol Affects You
The Mild Effects

The mild affects of alcohol are the ones that can be so attractive to people. It produces a feeling of well-being or even euphoria when it first impacts the brain. One or two drinks will tend to make a person relax.

At the same time, it has a dis-inhibiting effect – in other words, a person will be more likely to do something that they wouldn't ordinarily do.

This effect will grow as more alcohol is consumed. That is why so many people get into trouble by doing stupid things when drunk.

How Alcohol Affects Your Body
The Not-So Mild Effects

As the person consumes more alcohol in one sitting, the affects of alcohol on the body can quickly become less pleasant (at least for most people).

These include blurred vision, slurring of speech and lack of coordination.

Alcohol could likewise produce detectable impairments in a person’s memory after only a couple of drinks and, as the quantity of alcohol consumed increases, so does the level of impairment. Large amounts of alcohol, particularly when consumed quickly and on an empty stomach, could produce an alcoholic blackout, or an interval of time for which the intoxicated individual can’t recall main details of events, or even whole events.

Another effect on the body that many are not aware of is that of dehydration. That is the main reason that people who drink to excess end up sick the next morning, sick with a crushing hangover. This dehydration is why people need to drink lots of water and feel nauseous, vomit and have headaches the next day.

Affects of Drinking Alcohol
The Long Term Effects On the Liver

When we worry about the affects of alcohol, we are usually concerned with the effects of alcoholism. Alcohol abuse affects every part of the body but the main concern is the liver.

Since the liver can only process a half ounce of alcohol per hour, if a person consumes more than the liver can metabolize it will damage the liver.

Eventually this damage becomes irreversible and can cause reduced liver function, alcoholic hepatitis, liver failure and alcoholic cirrhosis.

Alcohol Effects
The Long Term Affects On the Brain

Another concern is the affects of alcohol on the brain when consumed excessively over a long period of time. It's been shown to kill brain cells in even relatively small amounts, the one type of cell that the body does not replenish.

Eventually enough cells can die that memory and cognition can be seriously affected. With some people, this can turn into alcoholic dementia, a type of senility. Wet brain syndrome is another form of dementia caused by alcohol dependency.

Even those brain cells that are not killed by alcohol abuse are still affected by it as the alcohol interferes in their functioning. 

There are many treatment groups and treatment options to stop alcoholism before it does considerable damage to the alcoholic. If you or someone you love is fighting a battle against alcohol abuse, contact a treatment provider today.

If you or someone close to you is worried about the effects of alcohol, and wants help and advice on quitting drinking then take a look at the following pages:

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 (LCMHC). 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


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. ALCOHOL’S DAMAGING EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN. October 2004. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm

Healthline. The Effects of Alcohol on Your Body. September 28, 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol/effects-on-body

Harvard Health Publishing. Sorting out the health effects of alcohol. November 3, 2020. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sorting-out-the-health-effects-of-alcohol-2018080614427

World Health Organization. Alcohol. https://www.who.int/health-topics/alcohol#tab=tab_1

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