Short-Term Effects of Alcohol: What it Does to Your Body

Ethanol: The Intoxicating Agent in Alcohol

Alcohol, or ethanol, is the intoxicating agent found in wine, beer, and liquor which is produced from the fermentation of yeast, starches, and sugars. Grains like wheat and barley, and fruits such as grapes, are the most common source used in producing beer, wine, and liquors. Other plants, such as sugar and cactuses, can be used in liquor production. Alcohol is a psychoactive substance with dependence-producing properties. The consumption of alcohol spans many cultures and has been around for centuries.

People drink alcohol for various reasons, mainly due to its euphoric, relaxing, and intoxicating effects. These effects can temporarily help relieve stress, escape problems, boost confidence, and help people feel more comfortable in social situations. One major reason for drinking is to relieve negative symptoms related to mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. However, once the initial effects of alcohol wear off, the person can be left feeling worse than they were before. They may then keep drinking more in an attempt to relieve the symptoms again, which can lead to a dangerous cycle of substance abuse and eventually addiction.

Alcohol has become highly normalized in western society and can be found in just about every restaurant, grocery store, or home. The normalization of alcohol as a way to celebrate or even to just unwind after a long day can cause a false sense of safety when drinking it and most people are not aware of the negative effects that come with it. While one or two drinks once in a while are not likely to lead to negative effects, there are several short-term and long-term effects of alcohol abuse. Even one night of binge drinking can lead to an accident, poor decision-making, or alcohol poisoning. Continued binge drinking is also likely to result in an alcohol use disorder and other negative health effects. Below we will detail how alcohol can affect your brain, body, and emotional health.

For more information on how our addiction treatment programs can help heal drug or alcohol dependence, please give The River Source a call at 866-294-9331.

20 Short-Term Physical Effects of Alcohol

The short-term effects of alcohol depend on several factors including the amount consumed, age, sex, and body composition. Individuals who are on certain medications or in a negative emotional state may feel the effects of alcohol more strongly as well. A standard drink in the US contains 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol, which is found in a 12-ounce 5% alcohol content beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or liquor. The liver can metabolize about one drink per hour, and if the person consumes more than this, there is unmetabolized alcohol circulating in the bloodstream which is what causes alcohol’s effects. Alcohol elevates gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter, and inhibits nerve signals along that neural pathway, making alcohol a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Drinking can lower cognitive and physical capacities and have an addictive effect.

Some short-term physical effects of alcohol include:

  1. Slurred speech
  2. Drowsiness
  3. Dizziness
  4. Upset stomach
  5. Diarrhea
  6. Nausea 
  7. Vomiting
  8. Headaches
  9. Dehydration
  10. Distorted vision and hearing
  11. Loss of coordination
  12. Trouble focusing or making decisions
  13. Loss of consciousness or gaps in memory, also known as blacking out
  14. Slowed reaction time
  15. Labored breathing
  16. Lower core body temperature
  17. Loss of bladder control
  18. Alcohol flush reaction
  19. Coma
  20. Death

15 Short-Term Mental Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol can also have effects on the mind and mood. Drinking interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and may affect the way the brain looks and works. It can make it harder for areas of the brain that control speech, memory, judgment, and balance to do their work properly, resulting in a higher likelihood of injury or bad decisions. The changes in brain chemistry associated with alcohol consumption can take a person through a wide range of moods including depression, mania, euphoria, aggression, and anger. Drinking to excess can be dangerous because it affects the brain’s ability to control breathing and heart rate, slowing it down too low can cause coma or death. Some mental effects of alcohol include:

  1. Relaxation
  2. Joyousness
  3. Sense of euphoria or giddiness
  4. Lowered inhibition
  5. Slower brain activity
  6. Fluctuating moods
  7. Insomnia
  8. Impaired judgment
  9. Anxiety
  10. Depression
  11. Anger
  12. Aggression 
  13. Increased verbosity
  14. Over-expressed emotions
  15. Memory loss

short term effects of alcohol

Alcohol’s Long-Term Impacts

Continued binge drinking or long-term alcohol abuse can lead to several health problems. Individuals can also experience negative impacts on other areas of their life including relationship, legal, and financial issues. Long-term alcohol abuse is also linked to an increased risk of chronic disease and early death. Recent studies have also found negative mental and physical impacts in those who are considered moderate drinkers. Some long-term impacts of alcohol include:

Several types of cancer including liver, breast, mouth, and throat cancer

  • Cardiovascular disease and stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression

The long-term effects of alcohol on the brain are especially expensive. Continued alcohol abuse will eventually cause physical changes to the brain and neurotransmitter activity. Imaging studies have shown alcoholism causes atrophy in the brain regions responsible for short-term and long-term memory, emotions, and balance.

Find Long-Term Relief From the Short-Term Effects of Alcohol by Calling The River Source Today

Getting help for controlling alcohol use is not just reserved for those with substance use disorders. Addiction does not happen overnight but is a slow process when you can no longer control how much you consume. The River Source, with multiple locations throughout Arizona, offers a wide range of treatment options for anyone wishing to stop drinking. If you struggle with how much you drink and want long-term relief, our treatment programs can help you. Our integrative treatment programs combine behavioral health therapy and other conventional treatment methods with holistic therapies.

No matter how long or severe your drinking disorder is, it is possible to reverse many of the long-term effects of alcohol use disorder. However, the sooner you get help, the easier it will be to stop drinking. Our treatment programs range from intensive options including alcohol detox and inpatient treatment to more flexible options including intensive outpatient treatment and telehealth rehab. We offer clinically driven treatment programs with a high rate of success. Every treatment plan is personalized, so we can meet you anywhere you are along the substance abuse spectrum of disorders.

Individuals who are struggling with mental health disorders and are using alcohol as a way to cope can find long-term relief at our center through dual diagnosis treatment. Our multidisciplinary team can provide you with various individual and group therapy sessions and medication-assisted treatment to help you find relief from mental health issues and learn healthier ways to cope instead of turning to alcohol.

Don’t wait to find help for alcohol abuse. Alcoholism is a progressive disease; the sooner you get help, the better your chances for long-term recovery. We are in-network with all major health insurance companies, and your insurance plan may cover all your rehab costs. If you want to learn more about our treatment programs and their benefits, please contact The River Source at 866-294-9331.

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Welcome to The River Source, the place where new beginnings are created. We commend you for taking the first step in your recovery, and we want you to know that we are here for you.