The effects of alcoholism are extensive and may be long-term or short-term, physical, emotional, behavioral, psychological, spiritual, relational, social and cognitive. How many or the type of effects one experiences is also influenced by what stage of alcoholism one has reached. Those in the early stages may exhibit different signs and symptoms than those in the late stages.
It may also be influenced by other factors like age, overall condition of health, other health conditions that may be present, social support and socioeconomic factors. For example, someone who lives in poverty or low income may have more social effects like trouble with the law and loss of job, where as someone who is well off financially may be able to avoid those types of effects.
Some of the most common physical effects of alcoholism may include, but are not limited to:
The effects of alcoholism on the brain are one of the most important aspects in regard to recovery. The longer alcoholism goes on the more serious the impact is on the brain. These effects on the brain are typically observed as long-term effects.
Alcoholism results in depleted neurotransmitters in the brain, primarily dopamine in the reward pathway as well as serotonin, GABA, endorphins and others, and the key to recovery is to restore balance to those neurotransmitters. The further one has progressed, the more depleted their neurotransmitters become, the more depleted the neurotransmitters the more physically addicted they become.
Changes in behavior are often the first signs to appear in addiction. These effects are usually most noticed by those around the alcoholic and not the alcoholic themselves. The alcoholic and even loved ones are often quick to deny, minimize or blame it on something else.
The long term effects of alcoholism are the ones we are most concerned about when recovery is not achieved. Minor physical effects like red eyes, headaches, cravings, shaking and behavior effects like lying, being irresponsible, missing appointments, breaking promises, being late for work, etc., are some of the first effects to appear. Unfortunately by the time the serious physical effects appear, alcoholism has already progressed to a more advanced stage.
The effects of alcoholism on the family is one of the most tragic aspects. Alcoholism leaves no one unscathed. Whether it is apparent or not, each person living with the alcoholic is impacted and often carries the scars with them for a lifetime.
All of these effects have a profound impact on the family as a whole and each individual, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Other non-alcoholic family members may begin to experience stress related illnesses like headaches, gastrointestinal disorders and emotional issues like depression and anxiety, and spiritually feel isolated, alone, disconnected, empty or out of place.
They typically experience a great deal of inner turmoil, because on one hand they love the alcoholic yet on the other hand they may feel anger, rage, disgust, disappointment, deep hurt, sadness and resentment. Children typically grow up into adults who have great difficulty with intimate relationships.
The longer alcoholism goes on untreated, the more damage that is done to the family. It is truly like a tornado has ripped through their lives and many families don't survive -- they disintegrate, which results in more pain and loss.
However, you don't want to protect the alcoholic from the consequences of their behavior. As painful as it may be, it is the consequences and suffering from their drinking that will motivate them to change.
You'll also want to look at the following pages:
Ten Warning Signs of Alcoholism
Physical Symptoms of Alcoholism
Living with an Alcoholic
Alcoholism and Marriage
Stages of Alcoholism
Understanding Alcohol Addiction
Keep in mind that some physical effects and even damage done to family, employment and friends can not be repaired, so getting on the road to recovery as early as possible can prevent some of these effects. Additionally, the more damage that is done on the physical level, the harder the road to recovery will be.
The effects of alcoholism touch every aspect of not only the alcoholic's life, but all those around them. The longer one engages in active addiction the more extensive the damage will be. When minor signs and symptoms begin to exhibit this should serve as a wake up call to recognize that a problem is developing, but unfortunately, most people don't seek help until the effects begin to scare them or their loved ones.
The most important factor you want to be aware of is that alcoholism is a disease that can be successfully treated when the true roots of addiction of addressed -- restoring balance to neurotransmitters.
Alcoholism is not caused by character flaws, weak will, personality or psychological disorders or spiritual failings, it is the result of depleted and/or disrupted neurotransmitters in the brain. When the alcoholic learns the truth about alcoholism they can achieve long-lasting, craving free sobriety.