5 of the Most Serious Alcohol-Linked Diseases

Despite the negative impact of alcohol on the body, people worldwide continue to consume it daily. The real problem comes with how the liver processes alcohol, as the enzymes that metabolise the alcohol can only absorb minimal amounts at a time. What isn’t processed is left to roam free and cause havoc throughout the body.

Think about binge drinkers become severely intoxicated in such a short time. How quickly the body becomes intoxicated is directly related to the volume and speed of the alcohol consumed.[1]

However, consuming small amounts of alcohol can be managed by a healthy liver with minimal effect on the body.

A healthy liver can break down and eliminate minimal amounts of alcohol fair swiftly. However, with excessive or long-term drinking, the liver can lose the ability to banish the alcohol effectively, essentially falling behind.

When the liver cannot eliminate the alcohol, it flows into the body and creates intoxication, having a horrendously negative impact on its central nervous system and organs. But trouble processing the alcohol isn’t the only problem.

The process of alcohol breakdown also generates several harmful and toxic by-products, including free radicals, fatty acids, and chemicals such as acetaldehyde.[2] Most of us like a tipple or two, enjoying the pleasant buzz as the alcohol washes over us. But despite this enjoyable feeling, it’s important to remember that alcohol is a toxic substance.

Despite this fact, many rarely ponder the severe and long-term effects of consuming alcoholic beverages. For example, it’s unlikely that people will consider their likelihood of developing alcohol-induced cancer, Gout, diabetes, pancreatitis, or liver disease.

But the truth is, the more intensive and prolonged your alcohol consumption, the more likely the detrimental and irreversible influence on your body.

The long list of acute and chronic alcohol-related diseases ranges from moderate issues, such as digestive problems and high blood pressure, to more severe problems that include heart disease, stroke, and liver disease. Unfortunately, the list doesn’t stop there.

There is an extreme risk of alcohol-related cancers, getting sick from the weakened immune system, learning and memory problems. Let’s explore these in more detail.

Diseases Caused by Alcohol

Below, we outline 5 common diseases caused by excessive alcohol consumption:

1. Liver Disease and Pancreatitis

Despite the incredible resilience and regenerative properties of the liver, it is not immortal. Even with these extraordinary capabilities, the liver cannot cope with excessive alcohol consumption. Denying that the liver’s job is vitally important for a healthy body to function is like denying the sun and the moon rise in synchronicity.

The liver is essential in aiding essential drug metabolism, clotting factor production, energy storage, and waste removal. [3]

Because of the liver’s essential role in breaking down alcohol, it takes a massive hit from even minor continued alcohol consumption. The precise impact of this continued intake is clear from the evidenced existence of different liver and pancreas diseases.

Therefore, alcohol consumption can lead to alcoholic induced liver disease, cirrhosis, and alcohol-induced acute or chronic pancreatitis.

Although the likelihood of suffering these diseases of the liver and pancreas is more prevalent in heavy drinking, once liver or pancreas disease has set in, there is a dramatically increased risk of severe consequences. These outcomes can include mortality, which is increases with even small amounts of alcohol.[4]

2. Cancer-Causing

One of the most significant risks from excessive consumption relates to the rate of alcohol metabolism due to excessive drinking, contributing to a risk of various cancers. These cancers include breast, rectum, colon, liver, and upper respiratory tract.

In addition, there are several ways that alcohol can make changes to the body that can result in cancer, including the toxic effects of acetaldehyde.

Unfortunately, some people seem to be more inclined to develop alcohol-related cancer than others, as some heavy drinkers do not suffer any cancer consequences.

Nevertheless, a portion of moderate drinkers will develop alcohol-related cancers, which research suggests may be due to a genetic disposition to alcohol’s carcinogenic effects. [5]

In addition, alcohol can damage the body’s tissues, put the organs under harmful pressure and create genetic changes that can lead to certain cancers. For example, the inflammation induced by alcohol can expose the liver to toxic chemicals and cause liver cancer

. Oestrogen levels also increase in women by increased alcohol consumption, putting women at additional risk of breast cancer.

As you can see, cancer is one of the deadliest alcohol-related illnesses with its high risk of mortality. Starting at one place, it can quickly move through and invade the rest of the body. Therefore, cancer is life-threatening and incredibly painful to live with.

3. Cardiovascular Conditions

Who hasn’t heard that a glass or two of red wine is helpful for a healthy heart? Unfortunately, this is a dangerous myth to spread. Even though some evidence suggests consuming minimal amounts of red wine can reduce your risk of heart disease, much evidence exists to suggest that excessive and binge drinking can have many more adverse effects.

Researchers in over 100 prospective studies found a direct link between even light to moderate drinking and the increased risk of heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest, peripheral vascular disease, clot caused deaths, strokes, and cardiovascular-related deaths.

Furthermore, increased alcohol intake of more than four drinks per day can lead to a higher chance of abnormal heart rhythms, hypertension, stroke, heart attack, and death.[6]

4. Brain Damage from Alcohol Abuse

Another dire consequence of heavy alcohol consumption lies with the impact on the brain. Studies find that those who chronically abuse alcohol will have shrunken brains over time. Furthermore, alcohol causes the death of grey and white brain cells. [7]

One destructive brain disease of note is the Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. A syndrome frequently referred to as ‘wet brain’ is caused by an insufficient amount of thiamine (vitamin B-1) in the brain.

The first component of this disease is Wernicke’s encephalopathy, which causes vision, coordination, and confusion troubles. The second component is Korsakoff’s psychosis, referring to memory problems, learning difficulties and hallucinations.

Unfortunately, this condition is irreversible but managed with treatment and abstinence.[8]

Less severe but equally troubling is the negative impact on short term memory with regular alcohol consumption. What’s more, alcohol use can also prevent the processing of visual information.[9]

5. Gout

Many people worldwide still see Gout as some mythical disease, stuck in the past like the Plague. But Gout truly still exists, with an increased number of sufferers today due to alcohol use. Gout’s primary adverse effect is on the joints, being an excruciating and disease similar to arthritis.

As with the diseases mentioned above, alcohol also increases a person’s risk of Gout, with beer standing as the worst culprit and having the highest impact. The Kidney functions typically by excreting uric acid, but an excess uric acid can cause this disease.

In addition, alcohol causes a negative impact as drinking alcohol forces the Kidney to discharge alcohol instead of the uric acid, which subsequently raises this acidic level within the bloodstream, triggering Gout attacks[10]

Preventing alcohol-related diseases

Unfortunately, the diseases and acute illnesses listed here are not exhaustive, and many other ways drinking alcohol can harm the body. In addition, anyone who ever drinks alcohol will be aware of the short-term effects of alcohol consumption, such as horrific hangovers, injuries, and violence.

However, most of us may not be aware of the sneaky side effects. The long-term effects of chronic alcohol misuse can be surprising and the most damaging. The best way to reduce your risks of suffering any of these diseases is to eliminate or minimise your alcohol consumption.

Getting Help

Simply saying ‘drink less’ might seem easier said than done. But, unfortunately, those addicted to alcohol may not be able to quit on their own. The good news is that there is help for everyone out there, with several professional treatment options available for all.

Talking to friends, family, and GP are always an excellent start to help you take the first step to recovery.

Your GP can help you discuss a range of options to suit your needs and personality. For example, assistance for alcoholism can include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), talking therapy, detoxification, and intensive rehabilitation.

For those who don’t feel comfortable reaching out to their GP, you can self-refer to your local NHS drug and alcohol treatment services.


  1. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm
  2. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa72/aa72.htm
  3. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/liver-anatomy-and-functions
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3307043/
  5. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa72/aa72.htm
  6. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/drinks-to-consume-in-moderation/alcohol-full-story/
  7. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm
  8. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000771.htm
  9. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991555/