According to statistics, alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States: 17.6 million people or one in every 12 adults are diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder and millions of more individuals engage in risky behaviors such as binge drinking that can potentially lead to alcohol abuse disorder. Effects of alcohol abuse are known to have negative consequences not only on relationships and work-life but can lead to illegal activity requiring fines and jail time as well as many medical and mental health disorders.
The effects of alcohol on social behavior
- School problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades.
- Social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities.
- Legal problems, such as arrest for driving or physically hurting someone while drunk.
- Physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses.
- Unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity.
- Disruption of normal growth and sexual development.
- Physical and sexual assault.
- Higher risk for suicide and homicide.
- Alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, such as burns, falls and drowning.
- Memory problems.
- Abuse of other drugs.
- Changes in brain development that may have life-long effects.
- Death from alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol associated with violence
Violent crimes such as physical assault, child assault, homicide, armed robberies, and sexual assaults are also increased when alcohol is involved, and on average, roughly 40 percent of inmates who are incarcerated for violent offenses were under the influence of alcohol during the time of their crime. Many of these criminals had an estimated blood alcohol content (BAC) level of more than three times the legal limit at the time of their arrest. It is well known that alcohol is a depressant and lowers inhibitions through increasing dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and plays a significant role in creating a pleasurable effect and is also known to be a leading player in the addiction pathway. When dopamine is increased, good decisions cannot be differentiated from bad choices, potentially creating a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, this “happy neurotransmitter” mixed with alcohol is landing people behind bars and paying hefty fines for their crimes; but the underlying triggers for their drinking are not being addressed.
Effects of alcohol abuse on the body
Alcohol can affect every organ system in the body, including the brain, heart, gastrointestinal system, liver, bones, and kidneys, and many people die from medical conditions associated with chronic alcohol abuse. Alcohol is also associated with many cancers, including liver, breast, esophageal, oral, and pancreatic cancers and can cause fetal alcohol syndrome in mothers who consume alcohol while pregnant. The following are known medical complications directly related to chronic alcohol consumption:
- Acute and chronic pancreatitis
- Esophageal tears (Boerhavve’s syndrome)
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Dilated cardiomyopathy
- Alcoholic hepatitis
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Wernicke encephalopathy
- Korsakoff psychosis
Effects of alcohol on relationships
The impact of alcoholism on relationships and intimacy is widespread and touches on many different areas of intimate affairs. The effect of heavy drinking on relationships can be quite harmful. The first area that is usually affected is intimacy. Parts of an intimate relationship that can be affected by the effects of alcoholism include:
- Shared values
Alcoholism is strongly liked to codependency in relationships as well as abusive behavior, both verbally and physically. Deterioration in married or unmarried couples often stems from arguments, financial troubles, and acts of infidelity or, worse, domestic violence. Alcoholism also decreases sex drive, which can bring even more problems into an already strained relationship and can eventually lead to divorce.