The effects of alcoholism are wide-spread as well as damaging.

Indeed, chronic alcoholism is truly a devastating, destructive, debilitating, and all too often, a fatal disease that has its effects on the alcoholic; on the alcoholic’s social network, namely his family members, other relatives, friends, and work associates.

Not only this, but alcoholism also affects the unfortunate “strangers” who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the alcoholic causes a traffic accident or fatality because he or she was driving while under the influence of alcohol.

The First Stage of Alcoholism

Perhaps the most logical way to discuss the effects of alcoholism is to focus first on the classic alcoholic behavior manifested in the four states of alcoholism.

The next logical step would be to then examine some of the “social effects” of alcoholism.

Finally, the health problems, diseases, and medical conditions problems that are caused directly or indirectly by alcoholism can be undertaken.

In the first stage of alcoholism, drinking is no longer social but becomes a means of psychological escape from stress, inhibitions, and problems.

More to the point, early in the disease the person with a drinking problem starts to depend on the “mood altering” aspects of alcohol.

Another characteristic of the first stage of alcoholism is that a gradual increase in tolerance develops, meaning that increasing amounts of alcohol are required in order to feel a “buzz” or a “high.”

The following represents some of the classic alcoholic behavior, drinking problems, and the effects of alcoholism experienced by problem drinkers in the first stage of alcoholism:

  • Gross Drinking Behavior – more frequent drinking of greater amounts
  • Boasting and a “big shot” complex
  • The use of alcohol as a way to forget problems or to “mellow out”
  • A conscious effort to seek out more drinking opportunities
  • Lack of recognition by the person with the drinking problem that he or she is in the early stages of a progressive illness
  • An ability to drink great amounts of alcohol without any apparent impairment
  • Drinking is not social but a psychological escape from stress and problems
  • Increasing tolerance

The Second Stage of Alcoholism

In the second stage of alcoholism, the need to drink becomes more intense. Typically in this stage, the problem drinker starts to drink earlier in the day.

As tolerance increases, furthermore, the alcoholic drinks because of his or her dependence on alcohol, rather than because of psychological stress relief.

Also during this stage, the “loss of control” does not yet manifest itself on a regular basis; it is, nonetheless, gradually observed by others such as friends and family members.

The following list characterizes some of the classic alcoholic behavior, the effects alcoholism, and drinking problems in the second stage of alcoholism:

  • Sneaking extra drinks before social events
  • Sporadic loss of control
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Chronic hangovers
  • More frequent blackouts
  • Drinking because of dependence rather than for stress relief
  • Blaming problems on others and on things external to themselves
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop drinking
  • Increasing physical problems
  • Denial
  • Increasing tolerance

The Third Stage of Alcoholism

In the third stage of alcoholism, the loss of control becomes more predominant, meaning that the person with the drinking problem is unable to drink according to his or her intentions.

For instance, once the problem drinker has had the first drink, he or she can no longer control what will happen, even though the intention might have been to have only two or three drinks.

During this stage of the disease, the individual usually starts to experience serious financial, relationship, and work-related problems.

In addition, the problem drinker starts to avoid family and friends and experiences a loss of interest in things that used to be important.

Also typical during this stage are “eye-openers,” that is, drinks that are taken whenever the person awakens.
Eye-openers are typically taken to lessen a hangover, calm the nerves, or to quiet the feelings of remorse the drinker

suffers after a period of time without a drink.
The following symbolizes some of the classic alcoholic behavior, drinking problems, and the effects of alcoholism suffered by problem drinkers in the third stage of alcoholism:

  • Problems with the law (such as DUIs)
  • Frequent violent or destructive behavior
  • Changes in friendships, such as associating only with friends who drink
  • The development of an alibi system – an elaborate system of excuses for their drinking
  • An increase in failed promises and resolutions to one’s self and to others
  • Neglect of necessities such as food
  • The development of an alibi system – an elaborate system of excuses for their drinking
  • Aggressive and grandiose behavior
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be important
  • The start of physical deterioration
  • Loss of control has become a pattern
  • Half-hearted attempts at seeking medical aid
  • Eye-openers
  • A decrease in alcohol tolerance
  • Serious financial, relationship, and work-related problems
  • Increasing tremors
  • Unreasonable resentments
  • A decrease in alcohol tolerance
  • Loss of willpower
  • Avoidance of family and friends

The Fourth Stage of Alcoholism

The fourth and final stage of alcoholism is typified by a chronic loss of control.

In the earlier stages of the disease, the problem drinker may have been successful in maintaining a job.

Now, however, drinking starts earlier in the day and typically continues throughout the day.

Not surprisingly, few, if any, full-time jobs can be sustained once a person reaches this state of mind.
In the earlier stages of the disease, moreover, the alcoholic had a choice whether he or she would take the first drink.
After taking the first drink, the alcoholic usually lost all control and would then continue drinking.

In the last stage of alcoholism, conversely, alcoholics no longer have a choice: they must drink in order to function.
The following list represents some of the classic alcoholic behavior, drinking problems, and the effects of alcoholism in the fourth stage of alcoholism:

  • “The shakes”
  • Continual loss of control
  • The collapse of the alibi system
  • Indefinable fears
  • The possibility of alcoholic psychosis
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Impaired thinking
  • Loss of tolerance for alcohol
  • Unreasonable resentments and hostility toward others
  • Persistent remorse
  • Vague spiritual desires
  • Devaluation of personal relationships
  • An obsession with drinking
  • Nameless fears and anxieties such as feelings of impending doom or destruction
  • Moral deterioration
  • Benders, or lengthy intoxications
  • The “DTs”
  • The realization of being out of control

The Social Effects of Alcoholism

Alcoholism not only affects the alcoholic, but it also affects those who are closest the alcoholic, his family, friends, relatives, and work associates.

The following list is a sample of the “social effects” of alcohol addiction:

  • Traffic fatalities on the highways
  • Work-related injuries and accidents
  • Broken homes
  • Wife battering
  • Traffic injuries
  • Birth defects such as fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Destroyed relationships
  • Child abuse
  • Destroyed lives
  • Dysfunctional homes
  • Codependent behavior in others

Medical Conditions Caused by Alcoholism

Alcoholism causes a number of diseases, medical conditions, and health problems.

We will focus first on the different types of cancer caused by alcoholism and then on the non-cancerous illness and ailments that are the consequence of this disease.


The following is a list of different types of cancer that are caused directly or indirectly by alcoholism:

  • Throat
  • Larynx
  • Liver
  • Esophagus
  • Stomach
  • Kidneys
  • Colon
  • Rectum

Non-Cancerous Medical Conditions

The following is a list non-cancerous diseases, medical conditions, and health problems caused directly or indirectly by alcoholism:

  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Brain damage
  • Death (from alcohol poisoning, excessive intoxication, and organ malfunction)
  • Harm to the fetus while the mother is pregnant
  • Problems with the immune system
  • Impaired learning ability
  • Severe thiamine deficiency
  • Vitamin A deficiency (which can cause night blindness)
  • Numbness of the feet and hands
  • Memory loss
  • Dehydration
  • Organ and system malfunction
  • Alcohol Poisoning
  • Vitamin D deficiency (which can result in bone fractures)
  • Infections
  • Loss of intellectual abilities
  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
  • Korsakoff’s syndrome (a memory disorder)
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms when the alcoholic stops drinking
  • Inflammation of the digestive system
  • Ulcers from the perforation of the stomach and the intestines
  • Pneumonia
  • Vitamin deficiencies (such as folate, selenium, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B6)
  • Coma
  • Mental confusion
  • Kidney and urinary tract infections
  • Kidney failure
  • Pancreatitis
  • Wernicke’s disease (a memory disorder)
  • Nervous system damage
  • Cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy (damage to the heart muscle), heart failure, and strokes
  • Destruction of brain cells
  • Sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction and impotence in men
  • Diabetes


The effects of alcoholism are wide-spread as well as ruinous.

Indeed, alcoholism is truly a disastrous, destructive, and debilitating disease that negatively affects the alcoholic; the alcoholic’s social network, namely his work associates, friends, family members, and other relatives.

Unfortunately, alcoholism also adversely affects the unsuspecting “strangers” who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the alcoholic causes a traffic fatality or accident because the alcoholic was driving “under the influence” of alcohol.

If this weren’t enough, the effects of alcoholism manifest themselves in an astounding number of drinking problems, health conditions, and medical problems that are experienced by problem drinkers and alcoholics.

At first glance, the number of ailments and illnesses caused by alcoholism is overwhelming. After the situation is looked at more closely, however, the medical and health-related consequences of the disease start to make more sense.

That is, over time, alcoholism progressively breaks down the proper functioning of the body’s main organs and systems. In turn, the alcoholic cannot replenish the vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients his body needs because of his poor eating habits and perhaps more importantly because his malfunctioning organs prevent the proper digestion, absorption, metabolism, and utilization of the nutrients needed for growth, repair, and general system maintenance. Gradually, over time, the alcoholic slowly kills himself or herself by his or her own behavior.