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4 Surprising Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse

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We all know that alcohol abuse is a bad thing and some of the side effects are well-documented and frequently mentioned. The number of celebrity deaths due to alcoholism are well-documented and they establish most of the side effects that we associate with alcohol abuse. Some of these famous people include:

  • Richard Burton
  • Veronica Lake
  • Mickey Mantle
  • Jack Kerouac
  • Billy Holiday
  • Hank Williams
  • Errol Flynn
  • Oliver Reed
  • W.C. Fields

From these sorts of examples, we know that liver and kidney damage, accidents, and heart disease are common side effects of alcohol abuse.

Experiences drinking or socializing with people drinking means the following side effects may be pretty obvious as well:

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Distorted vision and hearing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Decreased perception and coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Blackouts

But, what about the less obvious and less publicized effects? If you are concerned about the effects of alcohol abuse on your body, contact at 800-654-0987 and speak to someone who can help.

Shifty Eyes

Positional alcohol nystagmus (PAN)—visibly jerky eye movement—occurs because alcohol creates an imbalance in the blood and the ear canals.

People who have experienced ear infections know that the ear canals help control balance and coordination. The eyes are also affected by the condition of the ear canals. Therefore, under the influence of alcohol, a person’s sense of balance and their eyes cannot work together.

There are 2 types of PAN: I and II. PAN I occurs during the period alcohol content in the bloodstream is increasing and PAN II is part of the hangover stage. The overstimulation of the ear canals during PAN is also associated with the unsteadiness, vertigo, and nausea felt by intoxicated people, as well as posture issues and hangover.

In either stage, the eyes will bounce involuntarily and the effect can last up to two days: making working with machinery and driving particularly dangerous.

Thinning Bones

Alcohol Abuse

Abusing alcohol can weaken your bones, heightening fracture risk.

In “Alcohol’s Harmful Effect on Bones,” author H. Wayne Sampson, Ph.D. writes “Long-term alcohol consumption can interfere with bone growth and replacement of bone tissue (i.e., remodeling), resulting in decreased bone density and increased risk of fracture … Alcohol consumption during adolescence reduces peak bone mass and can result in relatively weak adult bones that are more susceptible to fracture. In adults, alcohol consumption can disrupt the ongoing balance between the erosion and the remodeling of bone tissue, contributing to alcoholic bone disease … Some evidence suggests that moderate drinking may decrease the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women.”

The way that alcohol disrupts erosion and remodeling of bone tissue is by diverting calcium away from the bones. As little as 2-3 ounces of liquor a day can cause interference with the pancreas and its absorption of calcium and vitamin D. There is also an effect on the liver, which is important for activating vitamin D (important for calcium absorption).


Most people are familiar with viral hepatitis: types A, B, and C. It is essentially an inflammation of the liver, so it isn’t surprising that excessive drinking or drug use could result in non-viral hepatitis. When alcohol gets processed in the liver, it creates incredibly toxic chemicals. These chemicals can injure the liver cells. This leads to inflammation and, as a result, alcoholic hepatitis.

It is normal to associate alcoholic hepatitis only with hardened drinkers with extreme alcoholism, but even moderate drinkers have developed the condition.

Lung Infections

Heavy drinkers are more likely to get pneumonia or tuberculosis than the general population.

In an article titled “Alcoholic Lung Disease“, authors Corey D. Kershaw, M.D. and David M. Guidot, M.D. write, “In addition to its well-known association with lung infection (i.e., pneumonia), alcohol abuse now is recognized as an independent factor that increases by three- to four-fold the incidence of the acute respiratory distress syndrome, a severe form of acute lung injury with a mortality rate of 40 to 50 percent.” This leads to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths in the US each year from alcohol-mediated lung injury. This places alcoholic lung disease on par with cirrhosis in terms of alcohol-related deaths. Although, “the association between alcohol abuse and acute lung injury was made relatively recently and remains largely unrecognized, even by lung researchers.”

And this isn’t the only effect alcohol has on the immune system; alcoholics also face higher risks of cancer.

Those who abuse alcohol face a number of potentially dire consequences, some expected and some surprising. If you think it is time that you or a loved one stepped away from alcohol, you don’t have to do it alone. Call at 800-654-0987 and get started.

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