Alcohol abuse can have numerous effects on an individual both physical and social in nature. The effects of alcohol abuse may include liver disease and heart disease. Alcohol abuse by a pregnant woman can also lead to premature birth and increase the risks of birth defects. From a social standpoint, the effects of alcohol abuse can jeopardize a person's friendships, job, and family life.
The most well-known of the major effects of alcohol abuse is liver failure. When alcohol is consumed in moderate quantities, the liver is able to function regularly; however, when a person exceeds moderate quantities on a regular basis, the liver cannot handle the volume of alcohol and begins to fail. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to either alcoholic hepatitis, indicated by an acute swelling of the liver, or alcohol cirrhosis, indicated by scarring of the liver. Both liver disorders are reversible when caught in the early stages but become far more difficult to treat once the disease has been allowed to progress over time. Liver transplants are an option, though candidates suffering from alcohol-related liver failure rank much farther down the list of potential organ recipients than those suffering from non-alcohol-related liver diseases.
Heart disease is also one of the common effects of alcohol abuse. Studies have shown that drinking one glass of red wine a day can be beneficial to the heart, especially for individuals over 40. Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, can lead to early onset heart disease and high blood pressure. Like liver failure, if the effects of alcohol abuse on the heart are caught early enough, they can potentially be reversed. Allowing them to progress can lead to increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.
If a pregnant woman fails to curb her drinking while pregnant, she may stand to harm her unborn child more than herself. Increased alcohol intake during pregnancy can cause premature birth and low birth weight—both factors contribute greatly to the likely decline of overall health of the baby at childbirth. The effects of alcohol abuse on an unborn child can also increase the risk for birth defects and other anomalies in the child, often causing mental impairment, physical limitations and deformities, and general poor health throughout life. Doctors, in fact, recommend eliminating all alcohol consumption when pregnant with child, even for moderate drinkers.
Aside from just the physical effects of alcohol abuse, there are numerous social impairments that can be caused as well. Alcoholism can lead to strained relations with family, friends, and loved ones, particularly when they are trying to help the individual with the drinking problem, who often refuses to acknowledge one exists. Alcohol abuse can cause aggressive behavior, violent outbursts, and dangerous thrill-seeking behavior. Once alcohol abuse has progressed beyond a certain point, it also becomes extremely difficult to hold down a steady job.