What are the risks if you drink too much?

Immediate effects of excess drinking

Drinking too much alcohol in one go means:

  • You might lose control and inhibitions - whilst the ‘lighter’ side of this just means doing silly things, the darker side means having unprovoked arguments and injuring yourself in an accident
  • You might forget or have a blackout. Memory loss is a very common effect of alcohol intoxication
  • You might vomit - your body is trying to protect itself by repelling the poison

Longer term impact

The health impact of excess drinking in the longer term is hidden, and often invisible.

The body’s body’s internal organs start to suffer and you’re more likely to develop cancer, high blood pressure, liver disease and stroke. 

What do the risk levels mean?

The more you drink, the higher the risk. If you are regularly drinking at Increasing or High Risk levels, you will quite likely already have experienced some problems linked to alcohol, such as: 

  • low energy and weight gain
  • poor sleeping or insomnia
  • relationship issues and sexual difficulties
  • injury

Drinking at Increasing or High Risk levels puts you at greater risk of the following health issues:

  • Cancer - you're 3 - 5 times more likely to get cancer of the mouth, neck and throat
  • Liver disease - you're 3 to 10 times more likely to get cirrhosis of the liver (scarring of the liver through excessive drinking)
  • Heart - you're twice as likely to have an irregular heartbeat
  • You're also more at risk of becoming alcohol dependent

Doctors therefore advise that if you drink, you should stick to the lower risk guidelines, which reduces your risk of long term health problems. 

Tolerance to alcohol

If you drink excessively on a regular basis, your body starts to build up a perceived tolerance to alcohol. The noticeable, short term effects are less obvious -  you feel drunk less often, for example. But this tolerance is not real. Behind the scenes your organs are under attack, which is why taking regular breaks from drinking is so important.