Short-Term Effects Of Alcohol Misuse
Alcohol misuse can have harmful short-term effects, including hangovers, injuries, interpersonal issues, risky sexual behaviors, blackouts, alcohol-induced psychosis, and alcohol poisoning.
Although it’s one of the most popular drugs in the world, alcohol poses serious dangers, especially when misused.
In the United States alone, about 38 million people misuse alcohol. This behavior can cause a number of short-term health effects, some of which are life-threatening.
What Is Alcohol Misuse?
Alcohol misuse occurs when you use alcohol in a manner that poses serious health risks.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the most common types of alcohol misuse are binge drinking (having more than 4 or 5 alcoholic drinks on a single occasion) and heavy drinking (having more than 8 drinks per week for females or more than 15 drinks per week for males).
A standard drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol, which appears in 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Short-Term Effects Of Alcohol Misuse
Alcohol affects your body quickly. Most people start feeling intoxicated within 10 to 30 minutes of drinking. The most common effects include:
- lowered inhibitions
- poor judgment and decision-making skills
- poor vision and/or hearing
- slowed reaction time
- loss of coordination
- trouble concentrating
- slurred speech
- mood swings
- nausea and vomiting
In general, people who misuse alcohol feel these effects more intensely than those who drink in moderation. They also face an increased risk of other short-term issues.
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After a period of excessive drinking, most people experience hangovers. Hangovers involve unpleasant symptoms such as:
- muscle or stomach pain
- increased blood pressure
- sensitivity to light and sound
These symptoms occur because alcohol causes powerful changes in your body. For instance, it can expand your blood vessels, irritate your stomach lining, and trigger an inflammatory response from your immune system.
If you regularly misuse alcohol, you may spend a lot of your time experiencing or recovering from hangovers.
Because alcohol impairs your judgment, coordination, vision, and reaction time, it puts you at greater risk of physical injuries, especially if you misuse it. The most common injuries associated with alcohol misuse include burns, falls, and drownings.
In addition, people who drive after misusing alcohol face an extremely high risk of motor vehicle crash. Many of these crashes cause death. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 37 Americans die in drunk driving crashes every day.
Along with impairing your judgment, alcohol can make you moody and irritable. That’s why many people who misuse alcohol experience relationship problems.
For example, while intoxicated, a person might misinterpret a loved one’s joke as a serious insult and lash out. They may even become violent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), misusing alcohol makes you more likely to commit various types of violence, including intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and homicide.
Risky Sexual Activities
When drinking alcohol, some people experience a boost in sex drive. Combined with poor judgment, this effect can lead to risky sexual behaviors, such as unprotected sex or sex with multiple people.
These activities may cause unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV. A 2008 study showed that binge drinkers were twice as likely to contract gonorrhea compared to non-drinkers.
An alcohol-induced blackout occurs when you can’t remember events that occurred while you were intoxicated. Blackouts primarily affect people with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of about 0.16 percent or higher. Your BAC is the level of alcohol in your bloodstream.
There are two types of blackouts: fragmentary blackouts, which make you forget some things that happened while you were drunk, and complete amnesia, which makes you forget everything that happened while you were drunk.
While experiencing a blackout, you may engage in harmful behaviors, such as driving while drunk, having unprotected sex, or damaging property.
Although rare, alcohol misuse can lead to psychosis. Psychosis is a temporary loss of connection with reality. When it’s not caused by alcohol or other drugs, it sometimes signals a mental health condition such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
No matter the cause, psychosis typically involves paranoia (irrational mistrust of others), delusions (beliefs that conflict with reality), and hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there).
During psychosis, you may feel extreme anxiety and display unusual behaviors.
If you drink a large amount of alcohol, your breathing, heart rate, and other essential functions may start shutting down. This is known as alcohol poisoning or alcohol overdose. Common symptoms include:
- pale, clammy, or bluish skin skin
- slow or irregular breathing
- slow heart rate
- sudden drop in body temperature
- no gag reflex
- nausea and vomiting
- loss of consciousness
If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, call 911 right away. When left untreated, an alcohol overdose can be fatal. For example, if you lose your gag reflex and pass out, you may choke on your own vomit.
Alcohol poisoning can also cause other health problems, including hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature) and brain damage.
If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol consumption, please reach out to Ohio Recovery Center. Our board-certified healthcare providers offer medical detox, mental health counseling, and other evidence-based treatments to help you or your loved one stop drinking.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/onlinemedia/infographics/38-million-adults.html
- International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10270666/
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/interrupted-memories-alcohol-induced-blackouts
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose