How Damaging Is Alcohol?

How Damaging Is Alcohol
Long-Term Health Risks – Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.6,16
  • of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum.6,17
  • Weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick.6,16
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.6,18
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.6,19
  • Social problems, including family problems, job-related problems, and unemployment.6,20,21
  • Alcohol use disorders, or alcohol dependence.5

By not drinking too much, you can reduce the risk of these short- and long-term health risks.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention., Accessed April 19, 2022.
  2. Esser MB, Leung G, Sherk A, Bohm MB, Liu Y, Lu H, Naimi TS., JAMA Netw Open 2022;5:e2239485.
  3. Sacks JJ, Gonzales KR, Bouchery EE, Tomedi LE, Brewer RD., Am J Prev Med 2015; 49(5):e73–e79.
  4. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.9th Edition, Washington, DC; 2020.
  5. Esser MB, Hedden SL, Kanny D, Brewer RD, Gfroerer JC, Naimi TS., Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:140329.
  6. World Health Organization., Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2018.
  7. Alpert HR, Slater ME, Yoon YH, Chen CM, Winstanley N, Esser MB., Am J Prev Med 2022;63:286–300.
  8. Greenfield LA., Report prepared for the Assistant Attorney General’s National Symposium on Alcohol Abuse and Crime. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 1998.
  9. Mohler-Kuo M, Dowdall GW, Koss M, Wechsler H., Journal of Studies on Alcohol 2004;65(1):37–45.
  10. Abbey A., J Stud Alcohol Suppl 2002;14:118–128.
  11. Kanny D, Brewer RD, Mesnick JB, Paulozzi LJ, Naimi TS, Lu H., MMWR 2015;63:1238-1242.
  12. Naimi TS, Lipscomb LE, Brewer RD, Colley BG., Pediatrics 2003;11(5):1136–1141.
  13. Wechsler H, Davenport A, Dowdall G, Moeykens B, Castillo S., JAMA 1994;272(21):1672–1677.
  14. Kesmodel U, Wisborg K, Olsen SF, Henriksen TB, Sechler NJ., Alcohol & Alcoholism 2002;37(1):87–92.
  15. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Substance Abuse and Committee on Children with Disabilities.2000., Pediatrics 2000;106:358–361.
  16. Rehm J, Baliunas D, Borges GL, Graham K, Irving H, Kehoe T, et al., Addiction.2010;105(5):817-43.
  17. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Personal Habits and Indoor Combustions: A Review of Human Carcinogens, Volume 100E 2012. Available from:,
  18. Miller JW, Naimi TS, Brewer RD, Jones SE., Pediatrics.2007;119(1):76-85.
  19. Castaneda R, Sussman N, Westreich L, Levy R, O’Malley M., J Clin Psychiatry 1996;57(5):207–212.
  20. Booth BM, Feng W., J Behavioral Health Services and Research 2002;29(2):157–166.
  21. Leonard KE, Rothbard JC., J Stud Alcohol Suppl 1999;13:139–146.
  • : Alcohol Use and Your Health

    How much alcohol is damaging?

    Risks of heavy alcohol use – While moderate alcohol use may offer some health benefits, heavy drinking — including binge drinking — has no health benefits. Heavy or high-risk drinking is defined as more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks a week for women and for men older than age 65, and more than four drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks a week for men age 65 and younger.

    • Certain cancers, including breast cancer and cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and liver
    • Pancreatitis
    • Sudden death if you already have cardiovascular disease
    • Heart muscle damage (alcoholic cardiomyopathy) leading to heart failure
    • Stroke
    • High blood pressure
    • Liver disease
    • Suicide
    • Accidental serious injury or death
    • Brain damage and other problems in an unborn child
    • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
    See also:  Can Your Brain Recover From Alcohol?

    Is alcohol actually unhealthy?

    The Dark Side of Alcohol – Not everyone who likes to drink alcohol stops at just one. While many people drink in moderation, some don’t. Heavy drinking can take a toll on the body. It can cause inflammation of the liver (alcoholic hepatitis) and lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), a potentially fatal disease. It can increase blood pressure and damage heart muscle (cardiomyopathy).

    Heavy alcohol use has also been linked with several cancers: The World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research indicate that there is convincing evidence linking alcohol to cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, liver, colon, and rectum. The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that both the ethanol in alcohol and acetaldehyde, a chemical formed from the breakdown of ethanol, are carcinogenic to humans in high amounts.

    The risk is multiplied for drinkers who also smoke tobacco or have a poor diet. Problem drinking also touches drinkers’ families, friends, and communities. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and others:

    • In 2014, about 61 million Americans were classified as binge alcohol users (5 or more drinks on the same occasion at least once a month) and 16 million as heavy alcohol users (5 or more drinks on the same occasion on 5 or more days in one month).
    • Alcohol plays a role in one in three cases of violent crime.
    • In 2015, more than 10,000 people died in automobile accidents in which alcohol was involved.
    • Alcohol abuse costs about $249 billion a year.

    Even moderate drinking carries some risks. Alcohol can disrupt sleep and one’s better judgment. Alcohol interacts in potentially dangerous ways with a variety of medications, including acetaminophen, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, painkillers, and sedatives. It is also addictive, especially for people with a family history of alcoholism.

    Is it bad to have one drink a day?

    Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol

    • Alcohol consumption is associated with a variety of short- and long-term health risks, including motor vehicle crashes, violence, sexual risk behaviors, high blood pressure, and various cancers (e.g., breast cancer).1
    • The risk of these harms increases with the amount of alcohol you drink. For some conditions, like some cancers, the risk increases even at very low levels of alcohol consumption (less than 1 drink).2,3
    • To reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, the recommends that adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed.4 The Guidelines also do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason and that if adults of legal drinking age choose to drink alcoholic beverages, drinking less is better for health than drinking more.4 How Damaging Is Alcohol
    • Two in three adult drinkers report drinking above moderate levels at least once a month.5
    See also:  How Do You Get Alcohol Poisoning?

    The Guidelines note that some people should not drink alcohol at all, such as:

    • If they are pregnant or might be pregnant.
    • If they are younger than age 21.
    • If they have certain medical conditions or are taking certain medications that can interact with alcohol.
    • If they are recovering from an alcohol use disorder or if they are unable to control the amount they drink.4

    The Guidelines also note that not drinking alcohol also is the safest option for women who are lactating. Generally, moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages by a woman who is lactating (up to 1 standard drink in a day) is not known to be harmful to the infant, especially if the woman waits at least 2 hours after a single drink before nursing or expressing breast milk.

    • The Guidelines note, “Emerging evidence suggests that even drinking within the recommended limits may increase the overall risk of death from various causes, such as from several types of cancer and some forms of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol has been found to increase risk for cancer, and for some types of cancer, the risk increases even at low levels of alcohol consumption (less than 1 drink in a day).” 4
    • Although past studies have indicated that moderate alcohol consumption has protective health benefits (e.g., reducing risk of heart disease), recent studies show this may not be true.6-12 While some studies have found improved health outcomes among moderate drinkers, it’s impossible to conclude whether these improved outcomes are due to moderate alcohol consumption or other differences in behaviors or genetics between people who drink moderately and people who don’t.6-12
    • Most U.S. adults who drink don’t drink every day.13 That’s why it’s important to focus on the amount people drink on the days that they drink. Even if women consume an average of 1 drink per day or men consume an average of 2 drinks per day, increases the risk of experiencing alcohol-related harm in the short-term and in the future.14
    • Drinking at levels above the moderate drinking guidelines significantly increases the risk of short-term harms, such as injuries, as well as the risk of long-term chronic health problems, such as some types of cancer.1,15,16
    1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention., Accessed April 18, 2022.
    2. Di Castelnuovo A, Costanzo S, Bagnardi V, Donati M, Iacoviello L, de Gaetano G., Arch Intern Med 2006;166(22):2437-45.
    3. Rehm J, Shield K. Alcohol consumption. In: Stewart BW, Wild CB, eds., Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2014
    4. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.,9th Edition, Washington, DC; 2020.
    5. Henley SJ, Kanny D, Roland KB, et al., Alcohol Alcohol 2014;49(6):661-7.
    6. Chikritzhs T, Fillmore K, Stockwell T., Drug Alcohol Rev 2009;28:441–4.
    7. Andréasson S, Chikritzhs T, Dangardt F, Holder H, Naimi T, Stockwell T., In: Alcohol and Society 2014, Stockholm: IOGT-NTO & Swedish Society of Medicine, 2014.
    8. Knott CS, Coombs N, Stamatakis E, Biddulph JP., BMJ 2015;350:h384.
    9. Holmes MV, Dale CE, Zuccolo L, et al. BMJ 2014;349:g4164
    10. Naimi TS, Brown DW, Brewer RD, et al., Am J Prev Med 2005;28(4):369–73.
    11. Rosoff DB, Davey Smith G, Mehta N, Clarke TK, Lohoff FW., PLoS Med 2020;17:e1003410.
    12. Biddinger KJ, Emdin CA, Haas ME, et al., JAMA Netw Open 2022;5(3):e223849.
    13. Naimi TS., J Stud Alcohol Drug 2011;72:687.
    14. Holahan CJ, Holahan CK, Moos RH., Am J Prev Med 2022 (in press);10.1016.
    15. Vinson DC, Maclure M, Reidinger C, Smith GS. J Stud Alcohol Drugs 2003;64:358-66.
    16. Nelson DE, Jarman DW, Rehm J, et al. Am J Public Health 2013;103(4):641-8.
    See also:  Can You Drink Alcohol Before A Blood Test?
  • : Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol

    Do people who don’t drink live longer?

    Are moderate drinkers healthier? – The chances of survival for heavy drinkers are low, on average. Moderate drinkers, on the other hand, tend to have increased life spans. Moderate alcohol consumption improves your health and reduces the risk of deaths caused by cardiovascular diseases by almost half.

    Dementia Kidney cancer Thyroid cancer Type 2 diabetes Rheumatoid arthritis Stress and depression Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease Asthma and lung disease

    How Damaging Is Alcohol

    Will 3 beers ruin my workout?

    How does alcohol effect muscle building? – Research shows that an acute bout of moderate alcohol intake does not accelerate exercise induced muscle damage and also doesn’t affect muscle strength, Good news so far, but this isn’t the full story. To get a full picture on how alcohol effects muscle building, we need to look at the impact is has on testosterone, recovery and performance.

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