Alcohol is a part of many cultures worldwide, playing a part in many people’s social and personal lives. Regular alcohol use does, however, have downsides that sometimes go unrecognized.
People who use alcohol every day may cite research showing that a glass of wine every day improves heart health, but The American Heart Association1 explains that this research is far from conclusive and that many of the purported positive effects of a daily glass of wine are likely not due to the wine itself. These effects are also heavily outweighed by the harmful effects of alcohol if more than a drink a day is consumed.
How Much Alcohol Does the Average American Drink?
Recent research shows that the average American drinks about 2.3 gallons of alcohol2 each year. This comes to about nine drinks per week and is heightened from previous years, in part due to the effect of the global COVID-19 pandemic, experts say.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) shows that most Americans drink alcohol. NIAAA statistics3 from a national survey show that:
- 85.6% of adults have consumed alcohol at some point in their lives
- 69.5% of adults consume alcohol at least once a year
- 59.4% of adults report drinking within the month prior to the NIAAA survey
- 25.8% of adults reported binge drinking within the month prior to the NIAAA survey
- 6.3% of adults report heavy alcohol use
Heavy alcohol use is defined by the NIAAA in men as consuming more than 14 drinks in a week or more than four drinks in a day, and in women as more than seven drinks in a week or more than three drinks in a day.
Short-Term Effects of Drinking Alcohol Every Day
While you can drink one to two drinks per day while still being considered a moderate drinker, the reality is that it’s easy to become a heavy drinker when you drink daily.
The short-term effects of using alcohol every day may quickly become less noticeable and part of your everyday life. While these effects are short-term, consistent alcohol use will make these effects constantly present. Some short-term effects of daily alcohol use4 include:
- Problems concentrating
- Impaired coordination
- Impaired judgment
- Decreased inhibition
If you drink large amounts of alcohol in a single day, you may be at risk for more serious side effects, such as temporary memory loss, slurred speech and delirium. Short-term effects of alcohol use can be dangerous, potentially leading to injury caused by impaired coordination coupled with impaired judgment.
Long-Term Effects of Drinking Alcohol Every Day
While short-term alcohol effects can cause problems, the long-term effects of daily alcohol use can be much more serious, especially if heavy alcohol use is present.
One of the earliest long-term effects of daily alcohol use is that tolerance5 will develop. Tolerance occurs when the body adjusts to the constant presence of alcohol, making a larger amount of alcohol necessary to achieve the same effect. This can encourage those using alcohol to drink greater and greater amounts. Tolerance is more likely to develop with consistent alcohol use and may lead to dependence, where withdrawal symptoms occur when alcohol use is stopped.
Long-term daily alcohol use can lead to a myriad of issues, both physically and psychologically. These potential problems6 include:
- Alcohol-related weight gain
- Impaired social interactions
- Difficulty succeeding in work or school
- Financial problems
- Mood swings
- Impaired self-esteem
In addition to these potential problems, there are also several health conditions that can be caused by regular, heavy alcohol use.
Related: 10 Benefits of Quitting Drinking
Diseases Caused by Heavy Alcohol Use
Alcohol is a mild poison and has a toxic effect on the body. The negative effects of a single drink are minimal, but consistent alcohol use or using large amounts of alcohol in a single sitting can lead to serious health problems.
Some problems caused by heavy alcohol use7 include:
- Liver disease
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of cancer
- Permanent brain damage
- Immune system suppression, leading to increased infection risk
Alcohol affects almost every area of the body, and consistent, prolonged use can lead these effects to slowly build up to dangerous levels, especially when heavy drinking is involved.
Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcoholism
People learning about the effects of alcohol use often wonder about the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Neither of these terms technically used by the medical community, but they generally align with two terms that are medically correct.
Alcohol abuse is often used synonymously with alcohol use disorder (AUD). According to the NIAAA8, AUD is “a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” AUD may affect moderate or even light drinkers if their alcohol use is difficult to stop and causes negative effects.
Alcoholism may be used to describe a variety of conditions related to alcohol use, but is often used in reference to alcohol dependence9. Alcohol dependence occurs when the body has adjusted to the presence of alcohol to such an extent that alcohol is necessary for the body to function normally. People who are dependent on alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it, as the body needs to readjust to the absence of the drug.
Many people who need help controlling their alcohol use do not look like a stereotypical “alcoholic” and may be fully functioning members of society who like to have a few drinks every day. If you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking, however, or find it difficult to stop when you know you should, it is time to consider getting help.
The Recovery Village at Cherry Hill at Cooper has a proven track record of helping people gain control over their alcohol use. If you or someone you know is struggling to cut back on alcohol use, our team can provide discreet, professional assistance. Contact us today to learn more.
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- American Heart Association News. “Drinking red wine for heart health? Read[…]his before you toast.” May 24, 2019. Accessed November 18, 2021.
- Stobbe, Mike. “US drinking more now than just before Prohibition.” Associated Press, January 14, 2020. Accessed November 18, 2021.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” June 2021. Accessed November 18, 2021.
- O’Malley, Gerald & O’Malley, Rika. “Alcohol Toxicity and Withdrawal.” Merck Manuals, May 2020. Accessed November 18, 2021.
- Elviga, Sophie K.; McGinna, M. Adrienne; Smith, Caroline & et al. “Tolerance to alcohol: A critical yet und[…]in alcohol addiction.” Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, May 2021. Accessed November 18, 2021.
- Hasan, Abd Alhadi. “The impact of substance misuse disorder […]of patients’ lives.” Mental Health and Addiction Research, 2019. Accessed November 18, 2021.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” October 21, 2021. Accessed November 18, 2021.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” April 2021. Accessed November 18, 2021.
- Becker, Howard C. “Alcohol Dependence, Withdrawal, and Relapse.” Alcohol Research and Health, 2008. Accessed November 18, 2021.
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.