Alcohol Addiction

The Effects of Alcohol

Psychological Effects of Long-Term Alcohol Abuse

In addition to a host of negative physical effects of alcohol abuse, there are a few significant psychological effects as well. When a person is unable to control their drinking, the decisions that lead to a physical dependency on alcohol can drive a wedge between the person they are, the person they used to be, and the person they have the potential to become.

Major Depression

Alcoholism can perpetuate a vicious cycle of major depression and drinking. Many alcoholics will claim that they drink because they are depressed, not realizing that the problems created by excessive drinking can lead them further into the very depression they are trying to “medicate”.An alcoholic may ultimately drive their loved ones away, which may make the alcoholic feel unlovable, unworthy or abandoned. This can lead to an even deeper depression that will “require” more alcohol to mask.


On the far side of a depressive cycle lies mania. Mania is the euphoric feeling that an alcoholic experiences when they are drunk. Unfortunately, artificial happiness brought on by alcohol, drugs or manic conditions can lead the individual to make uninformed, irresponsible decisions that can have horrendous effects on their own safety. Typical behaviors for someone in a manic state brought on by alcohol include:

  • Irresponsible decisions regarding sexual contact
  • Driving under the influence
  • Excessive spending
  • Criminal activity
  • Insulting or embarrassing behavior in public

Anxiety and Panic Disorders

Generalized anxiety disorder is a condition that is characterized by a feeling of overwhelming worry about everyday matters. A situation that an unaffected person might see as a small concern requiring a reasonable amount of attention becomes, for the GAD-afflicted person, an insurmountable problem that brings on sweating, vomiting, shaking, trembling and other associated symptoms. An alcoholic may suffer a panic attack in situations when they are unable to use alcohol to cope with their problems.

Suicide Ideation

People who drink to excess may be doing so to hide from the problems they have neglected to face throughout their lives. The problems caused by drinking only serve to create more issues from which to hide. In an abstract published in the Oxford Journal, researchers made several conclusions concerning the issue of alcohol use, abuse and suicide. In addition to the fact that most successful suicide victims had high levels of alcohol in their systems at the time of death, they also concluded that people who drank to excess attempted suicide more often, with more lethal methods.Another factor that may contribute to this particular mental health issue is of a more physical nature. Studies have shown that alcohol can affect the production of serotonin in the human brain. Lower serotonin in the system can have a detrimental impact on aggressiveness and impulse control. A lack of these two factors in the human psyche is indicated in suicide attempts. Where a sober individual might “think” about harming himself, the inebriated alcoholic is more likely to make the actual attempt.


The risk of death from alcohol poisoning is much higher for a person suffering from alcoholism. The sheer inability to stop drinking once the binge has started has resulted in the deaths of many people. Alcohol poisoning occurs when the body has become completely saturated with alcohol and it simply cannot be metabolized. Legally Intoxicated Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) for a person of normal body weight and stature is .08. This means there are eight parts of alcohol for every 1,000 parts of blood in the body. Alcohol poisoning begins at approximately .14- to .15, the point at which Brown University’s Student Health Services indicates an individual needs a medical evaluation. Death can occur at any point beginning at .30, which is the point at which Brown University indicates an individual would need to be hospitalized.