How Does Alcohol Affect a Healthy Body?

Updated on 3/2/2023

Alcohol consumption can have serious impacts on the body and mind. Prolonged and excessive drinking can lead to alcohol addiction, a concerning condition that typically requires clinical assistance to detox safely, avoid relapse and promote a thriving recovery. Detoxing alone can be dangerous.

Alcohol use has short-term and long-term effects on wellbeing.

Consuming alcohol comes with a number of risks to physical and mental health. Short-term consequences are typically associated with drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in one sitting. You can still be at risk of the following consequences of alcohol consumption—even if you are not binge drinking—due to the way alcohol alters brain activity. Drinking alcohol on a regular basis puts you at risk for chronic illnesses involving almost every vital organ system in the body. One of the most pressing issues to treat as soon as possible is alcoholism, a condition also called “alcohol addiction,” “alcohol use disorder” or “alcohol dependence.”

Some difficulties that will likely ensue and damage the body if the underlying disease of addiction is left untreated include:

  • An overall weakened immune system
  • Digestive problems and pancreatitis
  • Respiratory infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis
  • Diseases of the liver including fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis and cirrhosis
  • Cancers of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon and rectum
  • Cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cardiomyopathy and arrhythmias
  • Mental health and cognitive impairments like depression, anxiety disorders and learning and memory problems

Long-term effects of alcohol use on the body and brain can be not only damaging but irreparable.

Withdrawing from alcohol use alone can be dangerous.

Once the cycle of addiction begins, it can be very difficult to stop. However, it is possible to live a healthy, fulfilling life in recovery after seeking help. Getting to this point first requires detoxification. This is a process characterized by withdrawal symptoms that can be extremely uncomfortable and dangerous—and even fatal depending on the severity of addiction—if performed without medical assistance. Some side effects of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Overactive or overresponsive reflexes
  • Seizures
  • Rapid breathing
  • Low-grade fever
  • Delirium tremens
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperthermia
  • Hallucinations

Not everyone who suddenly stops consuming alcohol will experience all of these symptoms. Chronic alcohol use leads to more dangerous side effects such as delirium tremens due to sudden abstinence. It is possible to have alcohol withdrawal symptoms for up to a year, a condition called protracted withdrawal syndrome or post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

Withdraw safely and sustain your recovery from alcohol addiction with medical detox.

Alcohol withdrawal can be risky to undergo at home on your own, which is why it is critical to find a detox program that provides the attention necessary to ensure a safe, comfortable and effective detox experience. The purpose of medical detox is to clear toxic substances from the body and allow it to regain homeostasis. This process substantially lowers the risk of encountering the worst side effects, such as seizures and death. A medical team will monitor your status and provide medical treatment if needed.

Alcohol detoxification is not the end of the recovery process, however, it is only the beginning. Once your body is no longer alcohol dependent, you can begin therapy and group work in residential treatment to resolve the core issues that led you to addiction in the first place. It will help you deal with stress and other triggers that can make you vulnerable to relapse.

You can start healing today.

Consuming alcohol can put you at risk for short and long-term health consequences. The most vital organs are impaired by excessive and prolonged alcohol use. Therefore, the development of alcohol addiction can make it challenging to withdraw safely, remain abstinent and prevent further damage. With medical detox and residential treatment, you can overcome alcoholism and find your way back to a healthy lifestyle.

Casa Palmera is a substance abuse treatment center located in West Los Angeles. Our medical detox program helps patients withdraw from addictive substances in a secure environment. Once stabilized, patients enter residential treatment where they will have access to a number of therapeutic modalities to help them manage emotional and behavioral changes that occurred as a result of their addiction. Therapy will also help patients  address any underlying causes of their addiction, like mental health disorders and triggers. Getting professional help for your addiction could change your life. Contact us today.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.