Effects of Long-Term Alcohol Abuse

effects of long-term alcohol abuse

Alcohol use disorder is a medical condition that involves frequent or heavy alcohol use. People with an alcohol use disorder cannot stop drinking alone. They may not be able to stop drinking even when it causes problems in life. In some cases, people will experience emotional distress and physical harm due to their alcohol abuse. 

Alcohol abuse can be mild, moderate, or severe. This condition can develop quickly for some people but can also happen over time. Here at Bellagio RTC, we believe in empowering individuals with the treatment they need to live their best quality of life.

The first step in treating alcohol abuse is understanding the condition. Alcoholism treatment should be guided by a medical professional. This is especially true in cases where a person abuses alcohol for an extended period.

Causes of Alcohol Abuse

Scientists still do not have a clear understanding of what exactly causes alcohol abuse. However, it is believed that a combination of factors can contribute to excessive alcohol consumption. 

Factors that may contribute to alcohol abuse or alcohol use disorder include: 

  • Genetics
  • The need to alleviate emotional pain
  • Early childhood events

There are certain instances where alcohol abuse or heavy drinking is more likely to occur, including: 

  • Consuming alcohol frequently, in large quantities, or drinking alcohol early in life 
  • Having a family history of alcohol abuse
  • Experiencing trauma in the past, such as physical or sexual abuse
  • Living with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, grief, eating disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder

Stages of Alcoholism

The four stages of alcoholism can be used to determine if a person is struggling with substance abuse. These stages are:  

  1. Pre-Alcoholism: This stage occurs before drinking is a real problem. In this stage, a person may drink to unwind after a long day, boost themselves in social situations, or help them fall asleep. This could also be considered moderate drinking or social drinking.
  2. Early-Stage Alcoholism: This stage is when a person binge drinks regularly. A person may even experience blackouts during some drinking episodes. Sometimes blackouts are due to experimentation, but if the behavior continues, this is a sign of early-stage alcoholism.
  3. Middle Alcohol Phase: In this stage, a person may have more instances where they lack control, and their drinking problem is much more severe. For example, people may place their drinking habits above work and family. 
  4. End-Stage Alcoholism: With end-stage alcoholism, a person’s condition may become more apparent. A person may have tried but failed to reduce or stop drinking several times. They may have also facilitated their life to support their drinking habits. 

Physical Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is a severe condition that can have a negative physical effect on a person’s body. Here are five potential ways alcohol abuse can affect an individual’s physical health:

Immune System 

When someone abuses alcohol, their immune system becomes compromised over time because it weakens the body’s natural immune system. With a weak immune system, it becomes difficult for the body to protect against germs and viruses. 

Studies also show that people who drink heavily are more prone to conditions such as pneumonia and tuberculosis than the average drinker. 

It has also been noted that excessive drinking may increase a person’s risk for certain cancers. Excessive drinking can contribute to a higher risk of breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, colon, and liver cancer. 

Sexual and Reproductive Health

Excessive drinking can negatively impact sexual and reproductive health. Those who abuse alcohol may experience lowered sex hormone production and lowered libido. As a result, their romantic or sexual relationships may become negatively impacted. 

Inflammatory Damage

The liver plays a vital role. It helps break down and remove toxins and harmful substances from the body. Unfortunately, the long-term effects of alcohol abuse interfere with the liver’s ability to function normally. It also increases a person’s risk of alcohol-related liver disease and chronic liver inflammation. 

Alcohol-related liver disease is a severe condition that can cause toxins and waste in the body. Chronic liver inflammation is a serious condition that can cause scarring. 

Sugar Levels

Another vital organ is the pancreas, which regulates how the body uses insulin and responds to glucose. If the pancreas isn’t performing as it should and the liver isn’t functioning, it’s possible to experience low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). 

A poorly functioning pancreas can also cause other problems. The body may have difficulty producing sufficient insulin to use sugar, which can lead to hyperglycemia. Meaning there is too much sugar in the blood. 

Circulatory System

Abusing alcohol can affect the heart and lungs, leading to an increased risk of developing heart-related health issues. There are a variety of circulatory problems a person can experience, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat

Emotional Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse can also lead to a series of emotional effects. Some individuals may experience intrinsic emotional effects, but it’s also common for alcohol abuse to emotionally affect family relationships. 

Pain, Happy, Relaxation

There are a variety of emotions and moods that are affected by alcohol abuse. These emotions and moods can generally be placed in three categories.

  • Pain: Those who abuse alcohol often deal with underlying painful emotions, such as fear, hurt, sadness, and grief.
  • Happy: Some individuals use alcohol to increase their sense of happy emotions like delightedness, excitement, confidence, and thrill. 
  • Relaxation: Drinking alcohol can also put someone in a calm state. Some people who drink alcohol often feel comfort and a lack of concern for problems. 


Many people dealing with emotional pain drink alcohol to feel numb. When excessively consuming alcohol, a person may experience blackouts or a lapse in memory. It’s important to note that blacking out is a dangerous act. During a blackout, a person may lose control of their impulses and have difficulty with rational decision-making.


Alcohol increases GABA levels, which relaxes the body. Most people use alcohol to calm themselves, creating more emotional flatness. But, this calming effect is only temporary. 

A person develops tolerance over time after consistent alcohol use. As a result, a person must increase their alcohol intake to achieve the same emotional effects. 

Family Relationships

Alcohol abuse can also take an emotional toll on family relationships. Having an inability to control the use of alcohol can make it difficult to meet family obligations and responsibilities. A person living with alcohol abuse may strain their loved ones. Friends and family members may also struggle as they try to cope with the person’s condition. 

Recovery for Alcohol Abuse in Lancaster

At Bellagio RTC, we help individuals recover through mind, body, and soul. Alcohol abuse is severe, but it doesn’t have to forever affect a person’s quality of life. We offer alcohol detox, alcohol rehab, and individual and group therapy to help begin the road to recovery. Contact us today to see how we can help.


More Posts

woman practicing yoga in the desert

Desert Wellness Center

Recovering from addiction almost always requires temporary respite from a stressful and heavily conditioned environment. For those in recovery, many familiar settings are often replete

people in therapy

Detox vs. Rehab

With addiction recovery, there are two main options: detox and rehab. Detox removes toxins from the body and is usually the first step in addiction

adult man listening to music

Music Therapy

There are a lot of treatment options designed to help with recovery from addiction. In many cases, addicts need to choose a treatment method that

Send Us A Message

Start Your Journey Today

Contact our specialists at Bellagio in the Desert to find how we can help your needs