Understanding the Different Effects of Alcoholism

By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited: November 29, 2020 | 4 Sources

Too often when discussing alcohol dependence, we focus only on the physical effects of alcoholism and the impact these have on health.

Drinking excessively – on one occasion or chronically – could take a serious toll on a person’s health. Alcoholism has wide ranging effects that touch not only the alcoholic but all those around him or her.

Alcoholism and its Effects on Children

Alcoholism and its effects damage not only the drinker, but also family members and in particular, children. Recent studies suggest that one child in every four or about 28.6% in the US is exposed to alcohol dependence or abuse in the family.

Family members are usually the first to detect the drinking problem and try to find ways to solve it, but sadly, help for them is less forthcoming. Yet, there is help in the shape of Al-anon.

Alcoholism is responsible for more family problems than any other single cause. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, one in four children is exposed to family alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

Bridget F. Grant, Ph.D. claims:

effects of alcoholism "Children of alcoholics may be neglected or abused and frequently face economic hardship and social isolation. They also are vulnerable to psychopathology and medical problems, including an increased risk for themselves developing alcohol abuse or alcohol alcoholism."

The effects of alcoholism on children may lead them to suffer from low self-esteem, loneliness, guilt, feelings of helplessness, fears of abandonment, and chronic depression (Berger, 1993).

In some cases the children feel responsible for the alcohol problems of their parents and may think they created the problem. A United States government survey shows that 30 percent of young women who didn’t complete high school had grown up in families with alcoholic parents (Berger, 1993, p.75).

Social Effects of Alcoholism
On Marriage

Being married to an alcoholic can feel like a never-ending struggle. The spouse may have feelings of hatred, self-pity, avoidance of social contacts, suffer exhaustion and become physically or mentally ill.

Very often the spouse has to perform the roles of both parents. As a result, the non-alcoholic parent may be inconsistent, demanding, and often neglect the children.

Having financial difficulties is another issue that families of alcoholics have to deal with.

Today, experts who study alcoholic families know that marital problems often start because of alcoholism, but they also learned that spouses may contribute to the drinker’s habit and make it worse.

Some alcoholic's spouses allow the heavy drinking to continue rather than deal with alcoholism. Letting the alcoholic drink is easier than confronting the reality of the situation. Alcoholism denial is commonly used by the drinker's spouse to rationalize the drinker’s alcohol dependency.

Alcohol abuse has probably ended more marriages and broken up more families than we will ever know. Excessive drinking, alcohol use disorders, and alcohol abuse are all linked to decreased marital satisfaction.

On the other hand, there are thousands of stories about how people who thought there was no hope for their marriage, have found a way out to a successful and happy life.

The Physical Effects of Alcoholism

Too much alcohol consumption has immediate effects that multiply the risk of a lot of harmful health issues.

The short-term effects of alcoholism on the human body can take many forms and are largely governed by the amount and circumstances of consumption.

However, tolerance varies considerably between individuals, as does individual response to the amount drunk, thus the effects of alcohol are very different between people.

The First Effects to Appear (usually after 1-2 drinks) Are:

  • Feelings of relaxation and cheerfulness.
  • Increased self-confidence and courage.
  • Increased sociability.
  • Shortened attention span.
  • Impaired fine muscle coordination.

As The Alcoholic Continues to Drink More (reaching BAC level of 0.25 to 0.4 percent) He May Suffer From:

  • Impaired memory and comprehension.
  • Delayed reactions.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Balance difficulty.
  • Impaired senses.

In Cases of Heavy Drinking (more than 4 drinks, BAC level over 0.3 percent):

  • Vomiting.
  • Dizziness often associated with nausea.
  • Lapses in and out of consciousness.
  • Decreased heart rate.
  • Severe ataxia.
  • Depressed reflexes.

Physical Effects Of Alcoholism
Long Term

The long term effects of alcoholism range from possible health benefits for low levels of alcohol consumption to severe detrimental effects in cases of chronic alcohol abuse.

Alcohol-Related Deaths:

  • Russia Excessive alcohol consumption in Russia, particularly by men, has in recent years caused more than half of all deaths in the 15-54 age group.
  • UK There were 8,724 alcohol-related deaths in 2007, lower than 2006, but more than double the 4,144 recorded in 1991. The alcohol-related death rate was 13.3 per 100,000 population in 2007, compared with 6.9 per 100,000 population in 1991.
  • US From 2001–2005, there were approximately 79,000 deaths annually attributable to excessive alcohol use. In fact, excessive alcohol use is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States each year.

Other Known Long-Term Effects of Heavy Drinking Are:

For more on the the impact of alcoholism on health, read alcohol abuse effects.

Social Effects of Alcoholism
The Workplace

The costs of alcoholism and alcohol abuse manifest themselves in many different ways:

  • Repeated absence is estimated to be 4 to 8 times greater among alcoholics and alcohol abusers.
  • Other family members of alcoholics also have greater rates of absenteeism.
  • Accidents and on-the-job injuries are far more prevalent among alcoholics and alcohol abusers.

Alcohol is one of the two most widely abused substances in the world (together with caffeine). The effects of alcoholism and excessive drinking are far-ranging. 

The way to avoid alcoholism and its effects is to ensure that you do not develop the condition. One way of doing this is to remain teetotal.

If you like a drink, and there's nothing wrong with that, then try and stick within moderate drinking guidelines:

  •  Men should drink up to two drinks a day. 
  •  Women should drink no more than one

Are You Ready to Stop Alcohol Abuse?

Drinking in moderation may be safe, but if you feel like you’ve gotten overboard and you want to stop alcohol abuse before it gets worse, there are treatment facilities that can help you. Reach out to them today.

If you or someone close to you 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


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Use and Your Health. January 14, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

Clinical and Research Institute on Addictions. RIA Reaching Others: Does Drinking Affect Marriage?. October 13, 2014. http://www.buffalo.edu/cria/news_events/es/es12.html

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Problems in Intimate Relationships: Identification and Intervention. June 2003. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/niaaa-guide/

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol's Effects on the Body. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body

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