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Alcohol Use And Abuse

Problems Caused By Alcohol

Last modified: 
04/01/2013 - 14:32

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Both alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence can cause many different types of problems that can disrupt a person’s life. They include health, emotional, social, work or school, and financial problems.

To read about what alcohol is go to What is alcohol.

Health problems

The short-term effects of alcohol on the body include:

  • upset stomach;
  • diarrhea;
  • lack of coordination and judgment;
  • headaches; and
  • insomnia.

Misuse of alcohol can cause many different long-term problems because the whole body is affected. Some of these problems can lead to death. (Hyperlink all topics in this list to their article in the HIP library if there is an article about them.)

  • Heart disease: high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, heart damage, heart failure
  • Cancer (mainly in conjunction with the cancerous effects of other substances, such as cigarette smoke);
  • Liver problems: liver damage, hepatitis, cirrhosis, cancer;
  • Problems of the stomach, lungs, kidneys, skin, muscle, and bones;
  • Infections (alcohol suppresses the immune system.);
  • Mental disorders: problems with attention, learning, and memory;depression; mood swings; anxiety disorders;
  • Insomnia;
  • Malnutrition; and
  • Impotence and infertility in men.

Women who drink while pregnant have an increased chance of miscarriage. Babies of mothers who drink may be born at a low birth weight and with physical, mental, and behavioral problems. Many of these problems last into adulthood.

Alcohol abuse and dependence also substantially increase the risk of accidents and violent behavior. For example, alcohol plays a major part in over half of all deaths from car accidents. Misuse of alcohol increases the risk of rape, domestic violence, child abuse, suicide, and murder.

Social Problems

Alcohol use can make mild social problems worse by causing people to be more irritable and likely to argue and by affecting judgment and control of behavior. Alcohol use can also be the topic of arguments.

Misuse of alcohol can lead to a number of moderate and serious social problems including:

  • losing friends;
  • losing jobs;
  • child abuse and domestic violence;
  • separation of family members; and
  • divorce.

Work Or School Problems

Misuse of alcohol may cause performance at work or school to suffer in ways such as:

  • arriving late;
  • making more mistakes;
  • leaving assignments incomplete;
  • problems with bosses and co-workers;
  • getting poor grades or evaluations;
  • flunking out of school; and
  • losing jobs.

Financial Problems

Misuse of alcohol may make current money problems worse and cause new ones, including:

  • having less money for necessary expenses like food and clothing;
  • neglecting to pay bills; and
  • creating additional expenses, such as extra medical costs, fines, or car repairs.
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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.