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Drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis harms your liver, nervous system, heart, and brain. It can cause health problems or make them worse. These problems include:
Heavy alcohol use also can cause stomach problems, interactions between medicines and alcohol, and sexual problems. It can lead to violence, accidents, social isolation, and problems at work, school, or home. You also may have legal problems, such as traffic tickets or car crashes, as a result of drinking.
Drinking alcohol can cause unique problems for older adults and people who are pregnant or who have other health conditions. If you are pregnant, you should not drink any alcohol because it can harm your baby.
Drinking also makes symptoms of mental health conditions worse. When you have a drinking problem and a mental health condition, it's called a dual diagnosis. It's very important to treat all mental health conditions, such as depression. You may drink less when mental health conditions are treated.
Experts don't know if alcohol is safe in any amount. If you choose to drink alcohol, the key is to keep your drinking at low to moderate levels.
People who drink too much are hurting their health. Heavy drinking can cause all kinds of problems, from stomach and sexual problems to stroke and liver disease. It can also lead to problems at work, school, or home and to drunk driving and violence.
It may be hard to know if you are drinking too much. Because of things like age, sex, weight, and health history, alcohol affects people differently. But here's what experts say:
Drinking has a greater effect on women because they typically weigh less. But this isn't the only reason. Women's bodies have less water than men's bodies. Alcohol mixes with body water. So alcohol is more concentrated and more "powerful" in women than in men. Think of putting a drop of red food coloring in both a small and a large cup of water. The water in the smaller cup will be much redder.
It's important to remember that the only way to guarantee that drinking alcohol will not harm you at all is to not drink at all.
There are certain times when drinking any amount of alcohol is unhealthy. You shouldn't drink if:
U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2020). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025, 9th ed. December 2020. Available: DietaryGuidelines.gov.
Current as of:
March 21, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review BoardAll Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
Current as of: March 21, 2023
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
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