The Common Effects of Alcohol Consumption

The Common Effects of Alcohol Consumption

What do we know about the common effects of alcohol?

Alcohol has been part of our culture for many years, with many ancient civilisations and remote tribes using alcohol as a food, a medicine, a tranquilliser and even as a religious artefact. The effects of alcohol have long been studied and documented, but with today’s sophisticated research, tools and methods we are finding out more about the short and long effects of alcohol.

The effect of alcohol on your body starts as soon as you take a sip, it is absorbed from the stomach lining and intestine into the blood stream, where it quickly travels to the brain. The effect it will have depends on how quickly you drink, whether you have eaten, your age, your general health and even on your weight and body fat ratio.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down the body’s systems, which can create a feeling of relaxation. It also affects perception, physical and mental reactions, and can result in clumsiness and confusion. Alcohol can be difficult for the body to process and this can put a strain on internal organs such, as the liver and heart.

Alcohol can irritate your stomach, particularly if you drink on an empty stomach. It can interfere with your gut bacteria, which affects how you absorb nutrients from food, and it can also cause serious conditions such as gastritis, which is an inflammation of your gut lining which can result in pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and even bleeding.  One way to reduce the risk is to make sure you eat before and whilst drinking.

Some studies actually show that consuming alcohol in moderation with food can be beneficial, for example one study found that having a glass of red wine with a meal helped digestion as the polyphenols contained in red wine relaxed the stomach lining.


But what does drinking in moderation mean, and how much is too much alcohol?

Current government and CMO guidance suggests drinking fewer than 14 units per week, which equates to six glasses of wine, six pints of beer or lager or fourteen single shots of spirits. Anything above this level puts you at increased risk of health issues.

However, researchers are changing how they study the effects and risks of drinking, and it looks as though alcohol, even at low levels, may be much worse for your health than previously thought.

A recent study published in The Lancet, which pooled data from 83 studies from 919 countries found that drinking more than one drink per day was associated with a higher risk of death. The study also suggested that the risk is highest in people who drink beer or spirits and binge drinkers, and recommends that current safe threshold levels are revised.


So what effects can alcohol have on your health?

In the short-term alcohol consumption can cause changes to your mood and to your feelings and behaviour. It can increase or exaggerate feelings and make you feel angry, aggressive anxious or depressed. Alcohol has the effect of reducing inhibitions which can often result in an increase in antisocial and risk-taking behaviour.

Regular and long-term drinking can affect your mental health in several ways.

Drinking alcohol can change your sleep your sleep patterns affecting how well your body rests and repairs. This can cause feelings of tiredness, and simply being tired can make it much feel much harder to deal with difficulties and make problems seem overwhelming.



Lack of quality sleep and increased alcohol consumption is also linked to low mood, depression, anxiety. This is because alcohol alters brain chemicals such as neurotransmitters, which transmit signals between nerve cells in the brain. Alcohol also affects serotonin levels, an important chemical known as the happiness chemical, which regulates mood, behaviour, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, and even sexual desire. Low serotonin levels are also linked with depression.

Alcohol can also cause nerve damage, which can result in changes in balance and co-ordination and in how you experience pain.

Drinking alcohol affects the liver and this can lead to conditions such as fatty liver, steatohepatitis and cirrhosis.  The more alcohol you drink, and the longer you drink for, the greater your risk of damage to the liver.


In the early stages you might not have symptoms, but as your liver deteriorates symptoms might include:

  • tiredness
  • abdominal pain on the right side
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • muscles weakness


If the damage continues the following can develop:

  • a yellowing of your skin or whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • hair loss
  • swelling in your abdomen and legs
  • weight gain
  • bruising
  • confusion
  • difficulty concentrating
  • poor memory
  • hormonal changes – testicles may get smaller in men and they may develop more breast tissue, while women may have irregular periods


Symptoms that indicate serious changes which need urgent medical attention include:

  • high temperature and shivering
  • stools that are black and tarry
  • vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee granules
  • sudden jaundice
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

A risk that is less widely recognised is that drinking alcohol can also increase the likelihood of developing certain cancers, and again the more you drink the greater the risk.  Alcohol causes cancer by damaging our DNA and stopping cells from repairing the damage. Drinking alcohol regularly can increase your risk of developing cancers of;

  • mouth
  • throat
  • larynx
  • oesophagus
  • breast
  • liver
  • bowel


The good news is that if you stop drinking you will quickly notice the benefits. One of the first things to improve will be your energy levels, your sleep should improve, and you should start to look and feel brighter. Your risk of developing a serious disease will start to reduce, and if your liver is not too damaged it can quickly heal and is likely to return to normal with 4-6 weeks.


By Ani de la Prida


Nick Conn / 25th February 2019/ Posted in: Expert Talk

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    Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

    The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

    Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

    • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
    • Lorazepam (Ativan)
    • Diazapam (vailium)

    Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

    There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

    • Naltrexone
    • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
    • Nalmefene
    • Acamprosate (campral)

    Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

    There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

    Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

    A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

    Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

    The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

    Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

    Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

    Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

    *based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

    There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

    If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

    If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

    Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

    How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

    There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

    Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

    There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

    Local treatment

    Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

    Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

    Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

    Treatment Away

    Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

    As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

    When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

    There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

    Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

    There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

    Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

    Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

    Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

    Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

    Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

    Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

    How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

    The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

    Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

    Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

    Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

    You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

    The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

    There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.