Short-term consequences of alcohol consumption may include drunkenness and resultant hangover, impaired decision-making, alcohol poisoning or engaging in violence and risky sexual practices. Chronic heavy drinking may lead to serious health problems, such as alcoholism, anemia, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, cardiovascular disease or learning and memory problems. Additionally, drinkers with unrelated health issues may find alcohol causes harmful interactions when taken with other drugs and increases the likelihood of other medical complications.
Although alcohol may have a temporary stimulant effect, it is a depressant. It depresses the central nervous system, sedating the drinker. Excessive consumption of alcohol leads to slurred speech, lack of muscle coordination, poor or impaired decision-making and memory loss. After a night of drinking, a person may suffer from headaches, digestive problems, muscle weakness and memory issues. Drinking increases the likelihood of accidental injury and motor vehicle accidents. Drinking while pregnant may cause irreversible damage to the fetus.
Over time, excessive drinking may lead to alcohol dependence. Heavy drinkers are at risk for many health problems, including heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer and pancreatitis. Alcoholism may also contribute to social problems, including difficulty holding a job or maintaining relationships; mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression and an increased risk of suicide; and memory problems, including memory loss and dementia. Alcohol may also act as a gateway drug, leading the user to engage with other potentially damaging or addictive substances.