Effects of Alcohol Abuse

The effects of alcohol abuse are long reaching. Alcohol abuse affects more than just the drinker, their friends, and family. This article covers general effects of alcohol abuse, effects on the drinker, how alcohol affects others, and statistics on the effects of alcohol abuse.

Effects of Alcohol abuse

The effects of alcohol abuse impact the teen drinker’s own mind, body, and behavior, but can also influence all who associate with the drinker: friends, family, children not yet born, and others who come in contact with the drinker at school, at work, in the community, or on the roads.

Effects on the Drinker

The most immediate effects of alcohol abuse use are on the health and well-being of the drinker and women are affected more than men. Because their bodies have less water, even when body weight is taken into account, women are more impaired by the same amount of alcohol.

In a particular drinking session, the mind and body are both affected with as little as .02% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). The drinker begins to lose judgment, the ability to multi-task, and visual tracking ability. By the time a drinker has reached the level at which it is illegal to drive, .08% BAC, her or she has reduced coordination, concentration, balance, vision, self-control, memory, perception, and reasoning.

If alcohol intoxication, or alcohol poisoning, takes place, more dramatic effects occur, including, loss of concentration, lack of inhibition,  loss of memory, confusion, disorientation,  loss of physical coordination, lethargy, vomiting, and coma. If medical help is not sought and the amount of alcohol ingested cannot be handled by the body, seizures and death may occur. A hangover from having drunk alcohol may cause, headache, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea, lethargy, and shakiness; while withdrawal may lead to nausea, sweating, and anxiety.

Long term effects for binge drinking are greater than for those who drink less and who begin drinking later in life, according to a study from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. These effects include increased risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Cessation of drinking does not lower the risk. Other long-term health issues include, peptic ulcer, liver damage, cancer, depression, and anxiety.

In addition, research in the twenty-first century has shown that the brain is still developing until age 21, and that alcohol use among teens kills brain cells and can cause impairment of memory and language skills and poor academic performance.

Indirect effects include, according to the Surgeon General’s 2007 report,

  • injuries, including motor vehicle crashes
  • risky sexual behavior, including unprotected sexual encounters and unintended pregnancies
  • increased likelihood of poor academic performance
  • increased likelihood of the use of illegal drugs
  • increased likelihood of smoking

Effects on Others

Other people are affected by a teen’s alcoholism in a number of ways. The family with whom the teen lives is directly affected. Friends and classmates are affected by the teen as well, by his or her example, if not by being endangered by his or her choices. But besides this, there are two notable groups who stand to lose by the teen’s choices: the unborn child of a woman who drinks and those who are on the road or in the car if the teen drives while under the influence.

            Unborn Child

A pregnant teen who drinks passes alcohol to her unborn child, and the effects may not be seen until the child is born, or later. The group of disorders that result from the exposure of the fetus to alcohol are called Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), and include several different conditions, including:

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
  • Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND)
  • Alcohol-related Birth Defects (ARBD).

The specific physical effects of exposing the fetus to alcohol vary, but can include the following, some of which are irreversible:

  • Brain damage
  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Low birth weight
  • Seizures
  • Heart, kidney, and liver defects
  • Skeletal defects
  • Facial anomalies
  • Vision and hearing problems

Ten out of every thousand babies born in the United States has FASD.

            Other Drivers and Passengers

Not only have motor vehicle crashes been the chief cause of death for youths aged 16 - 20 in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but nearly a third of the drivers killed in these crashes had been drinking alcohol, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Moreover, in the same time period (2002 - 2003), over 17% of 16 - 20 year olds self-reported DUI with alcohol, with the figures increasing with age, we learn from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Report of December, 2004. This possibly surprising fact may be explained by information in the NHTSA publication “Teen Unsafe Driving Behaviors” from 2006, which reveals that “many” teens believe that they can self-assess their fitness to drive. This flawed logic may be responsible for some of the poor choices that teens make with regard to drinking and driving.


  • download.ncadi.samhsa.gov
  • oas.samhsa.gov
  • nhtsa.dot.gov
  • upi.com
  • webmd.com
  • nhtsa.dot.gov
  • apa.org
  • surgeongeneral.gov

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