From the second you take your first sip, alcohol starts affecting your body and mind. After one or two drinks you may start feeling more sociable, but drink too much and basic human functions, such as walking and talking become much harder. You might also start saying things you don’t mean and behaving out of character. Some of alcohol’s effects disappear overnight – while others can stay with you a lot longer, or indeed become permanent.
Diseases and cancers
Experts estimate alcohol is responsible for at least 33,000 deaths in the UK each year. While rates of liver disease are falling in the rest of Europe, they are rising in the UK.
Liver disease used to affect mainly drinkers in middle age, but now sufferers are getting younger.
Alcohol misuse is an important factor in a number of cancers, including liver cancer and mouth cancer, both of which are on the increase.
Chronic pancreatitis is another disease associated with heavy drinking. It’s caused when your pancreas becomes inflamed and cells become damaged. Diabetes is a common side effect of chronic pancreatitis. There’s evidence that heavy drinking can reduce the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can trigger type 2 diabetes.
Alcohol alters the brain’s chemistry and increases the risk of depression. It is often associated with a range of mental health problems A recent British survey found that people suffering from anxiety or depression were twice as likely to be heavy or problem drinkers.
Extreme levels of drinking can occasionally cause ‘psychosis’, a severe mental illness where hallucinations and delusions of persecution develop. Psychotic symptoms can also occur when very heavy drinkers suddenly stop drinking and develop a condition known as ‘delirium tremens’.
Heavy drinking often leads to work and family problems, which in turn can lead to isolation and depression. For heavy drinkers who drink daily and become dependent on alcohol, there can be withdrawal symptoms (nervousness, tremors, palpitations) which resemble severe anxiety, and may even cause phobias, such as a fear of going out.
If you’re trying to watch your waistline, drinking too much alcohol is not the best diet plan. Did you know drinking five pints a week consumes the same number of calories as someone getting through 221 doughnuts a year.
Drinking too much alcohol isn’t great news for your skin either. As well as causing bloating and dark circles under your eyes, alcohol dries out your skin and can lead to wrinkles and premature aging. If
If you drink large quantities of alcohol on a regular basis you run the risk of becoming addicted. Experts estimate that one in 17 people (6.4%) in Great Britain depend on alcohol to get through the day. This can have serious effects on their families, friends and partners, as well as their mental health.
Between 2007 and 2008 more than 30,000 people were admitted to hospital with alcohol poisoning. In the worst cases alcohol poisoning can cause lung damage (as you inhale your own vomit) and even lead to a heart attack.
Many traditional ‘cures’, such as drinking black coffee; just don’t work – or even make things worse.
The morning after
Alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant. This means that it slows down the brain and the central nervous system’s processes
If you’ve drunk heavily the night before, you’ll almost certainly wake up with a hangover. Alcohol irritates the stomach, so heavy drinking can cause sickness and nausea and sometimes diarrhoea. Alcohol also has a dehydrating effect, which is one reason why excessive drinking can lead to a thumping headache the morning after.