Effects of
Alcohol

Did you know that alcohol affects everyone differently? Learn about the short-term and long-term effects of alcohol on your health, sleep, work performance, sex life and more.

What Does Alcohol Do to You?

When you have a drink, alcohol enters your blood as soon as you start drinking. Effects can appear within 10 minutes.

Most people’s bodies can absorb about one drink per hour. When you drink more than that, your BAC level will rise, and you will begin to feel buzzed or drunk.

Keep in mind that not everyone processes alcohol at the same rate. These factors might affect how you react to alcohol:

  • Your age
  • Your gender
  • Your race or ethnicity
  • Your physical condition (weight, fitness level, etc.)
  • The amount of food you eat before drinking
  • How quickly you drink the alcohol
  • Your use of drugs or prescription medication(s)
  • Any family history of alcohol problems

The Effects Of Alcohol

So, what are the effects of alcohol? You should know the many short-term and long-term effects before you pick up another drink.

Short-Term Effects

Alcohol‘s short-term effects can make your night out (or the next morning) rougher than expected. Some short-term effects weaken your physical and mental abilities. They may cause you to make a few bad decisions…

  • Poor judgement (shot-gunning four beers and then calling your commander or CO = bad call)
  • Slurred speech
  • Slowed reaction times and reflexes (should be fun explaining how you lost a tooth when your buddy tossed you a beer…)
  • Feeling warm/hot
  • Loss of balance and motor skills (broke your wrist falling off the bar stool? Your unit will probably understand when you can’t go TDY/TAD…right?)
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion, anxiety and restlessness
  • Dizziness
  • Lowered ability to reason (you might be a little stressed this month when you remember that you spent your paycheck on shots)
  • Dehydration
  • Memory loss (do you remember where you left your CAC card last night?)
  • Heavy sweating
  • Lowered inhibition and increase in risky behavior (you think you’re okay to drive and get drunk snacks until you’re facing an Article 15 or a court martial for a DUI charge)
  • Disturbed sleep (no time to make up for those lost zzzz’s on duty or in the field)
  • Bad breath
  • Altered views and emotions (maybe headbutting the wall because your football team lost wasn’t the right reaction)
  • Nausea and vomiting (there go the extra calories you needed to bulk up)
  • Hangovers (that early morning PT will hurt more than usual)
  • Lowered immune system, even up to 24 hours after drinking (meaning your buddy’s cold is more likely to become your cold)

Long-Term Effects

Over time, excessive alcohol use can cause permanent damage to the body and brain. Alcohol causes drinkers serious problems, including:

  • Sexual dysfunction and decreased fertility
  • Dependence on alcohol (without alcohol, you experience shaking, trouble sleeping, irritability, depression, nausea or sweating)
  • Heart disease and other heart problems, such as irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure or stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon
  • Pancreatitis (pancreas swelling)
  • Brain damage, including memory loss and brain shrinkage
  • Birth defects in children born to women who drink during pregnancy
  • Increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature delivery
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Joint Service Committee on Military Justice, MedlinePlus and National Center for Biotechnology Information