Risks of Excessive Alcohol Use

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One in 10 working-age adults die from excessive alcohol use, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Excessive alcohol use is the fourth-leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Excessive alcohol use is considered more than two drinks per day for men and more than one drink per day for women. Binge drinking is defined as having five drinks or more at one occasion for men, and four drinks or more at one occasion for women. 

Long-Term Risks of Excessive Alcohol Use

  • Depresses your central nervous system
    • Affects your speech, muscle coordination and vital centers of your brain
      • Heavy binge drinking can lead to coma or death
    • Reduces judgment skills and lowers inhibitions, leading to poor choices and dangerous situations
      • Motor vehicle and other accidents
      • Domestic problems
      • Poor performance at school or work
      • Increased likelihood of aggression and violence
    • Can heavily affect other areas of the body:
      • Liver disease
        • Inflammation of the liver
        •  Permanent scarring of liver tissue, called cirrhosis
      • Digestive problems
        • Inflammation of the stomach lining; stomach and esophageal ulcers
        • Interferes with absorption of B vitamins and other nutrients
        • Damages pancreas
      • Heart problems
        • High blood pressure, increased risk of enlarged heart, heart failure or stroke
      • Diabetic complications
        • Interferes with the release of glucose from liver
        • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
      • Sexual function and menstruation
        • Erectile dysfunction in men
        • Interrupts menstruation in women
      • Birth defects
        • Fetal alcohol syndrome – resulting in giving birth to a child with permanent physical and developmental problems
      • Bone loss
        • Can lead to thinning bones (osteoporosis), increased risk of fractures
      • Neurological complications
        • Numb or painful sensation in hands and feet, disordered thinking, dementia, short-term memory loss
      • Eye problems
        • Involuntary rapid eye movement
        • Weakness or paralysis of eye muscles due to B-1 vitamin deficiency
      • Weakened immune system
        • Weakens body’s resistance to disease and illness
      • Increased risk of cancer
        • Mouth, throat, liver, colon, breast cancer

Treatment Resources


  • Men: no more than two drinks per day
  • Women: no more than one drink per day
  • Others who should avoid alcohol consumption completely:
    • Children and adolescents
    • Individuals of any age who cannot limit their drinking to low level
    • Pregnant and potentially pregnant women
    • Individuals who plan to drive, operate machinery, or take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination
    • Individuals taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol
    • Individuals with certain medical conditions
    • Persons recovering from alcoholism

For more information on alcohol deaths, visit the CDC website.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, WebMD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism