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Health and safety impacts of AUD: What to know

While the effects of alcohol can feel good in the short term, in the long term it can cause problems for our health and wellbeing. Drinking alcohol is linked to a range of mental health issues like depression and memory loss; and can cause damage to your heart, liver, and increase risk of cancer. It can also impact judgment and reaction time.

Mental Health

Regular, heavy drinking interferes with chemicals in the brain that are vital for good mental health. So while we might feel relaxed after a drink, in the long run, alcohol can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety, and make stress harder to deal with. Alcohol use disorder is also associated with suicidal behaviors.

Brain

Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.

Heart

Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including:

  • Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle
  • Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure

Liver

Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations, including:

  • Steatosis, or fatty liver
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fibrosis
  • Cirrhosis

Pancreas

Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.

Cancer

Alcohol drinking can cause or increase your chances of getting cancer, including:

  • Head and neck cancer, including oral cavity, pharynx, and larynx cancers
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer

Personal Safety

When alcohol is consumed on its own or combined with other substances, safety can become an issue because judgment and decision making are impaired. This can lead to accidents and injuries.

Drinking and Driving

It is not safe to drink and drive.

  • Safe driving requires concentration and good motor skills. Drinking alcohol changes the way a person thinks, affects judgment, slows reaction, and interferes with coordination.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is against the law.
  • In Connecticut, if you are 21 +, you are considered to be legally intoxicated if you have a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .08 or higher. If you are under age 21 you are legally intoxicated at a .02 BAC or higher.

Learn more about impaired driving laws and the importance of driving safety

Sexual Assault

Alcohol does not cause sexual assault, but it can be a contributing factor. Research has found that alcohol is involved in about half of sexual assaults on college campuses with the perpetrator, the victim, or both, consuming alcohol.

Long-Term Drinking

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over a long period of time can have very serious impacts for health and overall wellbeing. This can include:

  • High blood pressure and heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Problems with relationships with family and friends
  • Difficulty maintaining a job
  • Memory issues and dementia
  • Depression and anxiety

These risks can be reduced by cutting back or stopping drinking.