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Long-Term Effects on the Body

Drinking too much—on a single occasion or over time—can take a serious toll on your health. The effects vary from person to person, depending on a variety of factors, including:

  • How much you drink
  • How often you drink
  • Your age
  • Your health status
  • Your family history

People who drink too much over a long period of time may experience alcohol’s longer-term effects, which can include health problems, increased risk for certain cancers, and alcohol use disorder.


Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.


Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including:

  • Cardiomyopathy (stretching and drooping of heart muscle)
  • Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure


Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including:

  • Steatosis, or fatty liver
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fibrosis
  • Cirrhosis

Liver Disease in the United States

There were 83,517 deaths from liver disease in 2018, and 42.8% of these involved alcohol. Alcohol-related liver disease was the primary cause of almost 1 in 3 liver transplants in 2009.

Among all cirrhosis deaths in 2013, 47.9% were alcohol-related. The proportion of alcohol-related cirrhosis deaths was highest (76.5%) among ages 25–34, followed by ages 35–44 (70%).


Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion. 

Immune System

Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections—even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.

Alcohol Use During the Teenage Years Can:

  • Interfere with normal adolescent brain development
  • Increase the risk of developing AUD
  • Contribute to a range of acute consequences including injury, sexual assault, and even death—including those from car crashes