St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
Main Number: 314-434-1500
Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia


    Health risks of alcohol use

    Alcoholism - risks; Alcohol abuse - risks; Alcohol dependence - risks; Risky drinking - risks

    Beer, wine, and hard liquor all contain alcohol. If you drink any of these, you use alcohol. Your drinking patterns may vary, depending on who you are with, what you are doing, and other things.

    You probably already know that abusing alcohol (drinking too much) can cause many health problems. But even responsible drinking patterns can lead to health problems and other problems in your everyday life.

    Alcohol Use and Your Health

    Long-term abuse of alcohol increases your chance of:

    • Bleeding from the esophagus (the tube that connects your throat to your stomach) or stomach
    • Swelling and damage to the pancreas. Your pancreas produces substances your body needs to work well.
    • Damage to the liver. When severe, it often leads to death.
    • Poor nutrition
    • Cancer of the esophagus, liver, colon, head and neck, breast, and other areas

    Even what we call responsible drinking can lead to high blood pressure in some people.

    • If you already have high blood pressure, drinking can make it harder to control with medicines.
    • With alcohol abuse that lasts a long time, the heart muscle becomes weakened and the heart becomes enlarged.

    You likely already know that alcohol can affect your thinking and judgment each time you drink. Long-term alcohol abuse damages brain cells. This can lead to lasting damage to your memory, thinking, and the way you behave.

    Damage to nerves from alcohol abuse can cause many problems. Some of these are:

    • Numbness or painful "pins and needles" feelings in your arms or legs
    • Problems with erections in men
    • Leaking urine or having a hard time starting to pass urine

    Drinking during pregnancy can harm the growing baby. Severe birth defects or fetal alcohol syndrome may occur.

    How Alcohol Use Can Affect Your Life

    Often, people who are sad, depressed, nervous, or often worried drink to make themselves feel better or to block these feelings. But alcohol can:

    • Make these problems worse over time
    • Make sleep problems worse
    • Increase the risk of suicide

    Families are often affected when someone in the home abuses alcohol. Violence and conflict in the home is much more likely when a family member is abusing alcohol. Children who grow up in a home where alcohol abuse is present are more likely to:

    • Do poorly in school
    • Be depressed and have problems with anxiety and low self-esteem
    • Have marriages that end in divorce

    Drinking too much alcohol even once can harm you or others. It can lead to:

    • Car accidents
    • Risky sex habits, which may lead to unplanned or unwanted pregnancy infections (STIs), and sexual assault or rape
    • Falls, drowning, and other accidents
    • Suicide
    • Violence and homicide

    What You Can Do

    First, ask yourself, what type of drinker you are?

    Even if you are a responsible drinker, remember that drinking too much just one time can be harmful.

    If you are a risky drinker, watch your drinking patterns more closely. Learn some ways to cut back on drinking and ask your health care provider for help.

    If you cannot control your drinking or if drinking is becoming harmful to you or others around you, seek help from:

    • Your health care provider
    • Support and self-help groups for people who have drinking problems


    In the clinic. Alcohol use. Ann Intern Med. 2009 Mar 3;150(5).

    O'Connor PG. Alcohol abuse and dependence.In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed.Philadelphia,PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 32.

    Schuckit MA. Alcohol-use disorders. Lancet. 2009;373:492-501.

    US Preventive Services Task Force. Recommendation statement: Screening and behavioral counseling interventions in primary care to reduce alcohol misuse. Rockville, MD; April 2004. Accessed February 19, 2012.


          A Closer Look

          Self Care

          Tests for Health risks of alcohol use

          Review Date: 5/17/2012

          Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

          A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

          Back  |  Top
          About Us
          Contact Us
          Locations & Directions
          Quality Reports
          Annual Reports
          Honors & Awards
          Community Health Needs

          Brain & Spine
          Sleep Medicine
          Urgent Care
          Women's Services
          All Services
          Patients & Visitors
          Locations & Directions
          Find a Physician
          Tour St. Luke's
          Patient & Visitor Information
          Contact Us
          Payment Options
          Financial Assistance
          Send a Card
          Mammogram Appointments
          Health Tools
          My Personal Health
          Spirit of Women
          Health Information & Tools
          Clinical Trials
          Employer Programs -
          Passport to Wellness

          Classes & Events
          Classes & Events
          Spirit of Women
          Donate & Volunteer
          Giving Opportunities
          Physicians & Employees
          For Physicians
          Remote Access
          Medical Residency Information
          Pharmacy Residency Information
          Physician CPOE Training
          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
          Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile