How Does Alcohol Affect The Body

Alcohol can have a wide range of effects on most parts of the body. These implications can be short term, mid-term or long term on your health. This blog post looks at the different effects alcohol has on the body and how it can impact your short-term and long-term health.

Units of Alcohol

The first thing you should work out before you start weighing up the effects alcohol has on you is the number of units that you roughly consume. This is because the next part of the post is going to look at what are the health implications as you consume more units of alcohol. To read more about units of alcohol and how you can work out how many units are in your drink, then please read our blog post.

Short Term Effects of Alcohol

The short-term effects of alcohol are discussed below. This is based on the assumption that you have a normal tolerance to alcohol. If you are a dependent drinker, then you tend to have a higher tolerance to alcohol, so the effects are not as well felt.

1-2 Units

  • When you drink this amount of alcohol, then you tend to have a faster heart rate and your blood vessels dilate. This gives you a warm, sociable and talkative feeling. 
  • This equates to a single shot of spirit, a small glass of wine or a bottle of beer

4-6 Units

  • When you consume this amount, then your brain and nervous system start to be affected. This is because it can start to affect your decision making, meaning that you could act more reckless.
  • Furthermore, the cells in your nervous system can become impaired, meaning that you feel lightheaded which has a negative effect on your reaction time and coordination.
  • This equates to 2x pints of lower/higher strength beer, 2x standard/ large glasses of wine or 3-4 alcopops

8-9 Units

  • Once you consume this level of alcohol, your reactions become much slower, speech begins to slur and your vision starts to worsen
  • Furthermore, you are likely to wake up with a hangover, as your liver would not be able to filter all the alcohol overnight
  • This equates to 4x pints of lower-strength lager, 4x double measure shots of spirit and mixer, 3x large glasses of wine

10-12 Units

  • After drinking this amount of alcohol, your coordination and vision become highly impaired, placing you at high risk of having an accident. 
  • There is also a depressant effect on your mind and body, meaning that you tend to feel drowsy
  • Your body will attempt to quickly pass out alcohol in your urine, therefore meaning you feel dehydrated and have a headache the next morning
  • Your digestion may also be affected- this means that you could suffer from nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting and indigestion. 
  • This equates to 4x pints of higher strength beer, 1x bottle of wine or 5-6 x double shots of spirits and mixer

12+ Units

  • When you drink more than 12 units of alcohol, then you put yourself at risk of alcohol poisoning, especially when you are drinking over a short period of time
  • Alcohol poisoning happens when alcohol starts to significantly interfere with the body’s automatic functions, like breathing, heart rate or gag reflex.

Long Term Effects of Alcohol Misuse

Some of the longer-term implications alcohol can have on your body includes:

  • Damaged organs- this includes the brain, nervous system, heart, liver and pancreas
  • Increased blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels- could lead to heart attacks and strokes
  • A weaker immune system and weaker bones
  • Increased risk of cancer- including liver, mouth, head and neck, breast and bowel
  • Sexual problems- including premature ejaculation, infertility and impotence

There are also consequences alcohol could have on your social life. This includes:

  • Family break up and divorce
  • Domestic abuse
  • Unemployment
  • Homelessness 
  • Financial problems


Kindling is a problem which is experienced after several episodes of withdrawal from alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms could get worse every time the person stops drinking and can cause tremors, agitation and seizures. 

When an individual drinks alcohol, there is a suppressing effect on the brain and central nervous system. This means that when alcohol is removed from the body, there is hyperexcitability in the brain and nerve cells. This is what could lead to problems like seizures.

When someone experiences an alcohol withdrawal episode, the brain and nervous system become more sensitive and this results in the common side effects (e.g. disturbed sleep, hallucinations, behavioural changes etc.) becoming more noticeable. 

As a result, the alcohol withdrawal programme needs to be carefully planned and closely monitored as they can experience kindling effects even after being given medication to stimulate the brain or body.

If You Have Any Questions

If you have any questions about the effects alcohol has on your body, or would like to know more about alcohol, then please feel free to read our blog posts, including the health benefits which you may experience if you was to stop drinking. If somebody you know or if you are experiencing any alcohol-related problems and may be in need of a treatment programme, then please contact us today or read more in our friends & family page and our how to help an alcoholic post.
At Alcohol Home Treatment, we offer a client-based alcohol treatment programme which is designed around each client’s needs. Furthermore, with over 25 years of experience, you can be assured that we know what we are doing and that we can offer a programme which can help you safely remove your dependency on alcohol.

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