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Alcohol abuse is responsible for an estimated 7% of deaths in Canada.

Around 19% of Canadians over the age of twelve meet the Statistics Canada criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder. Many more who fall below these criteria still drink regularly. It is very important to understand the way in which alcohol effects our bodies and minds.

Alcohol is often a central part of social events. We strongly associate it with celebrating an occasion or relaxing after a long day. While moderate alcohol consumption is generally not a problem, regular heavy drinking can have a range of serious side effects. Occasional binge drinking can also have severe and potentially dangerous results. Many of the side effects of alcohol will be reduced or reversed if a person stops drinking. People who develop a dependence on alcohol will often require professional support in order to do this. If you are concerned about you or a loved one’s alcohol consumption, contact Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres today.

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol has a range of short-term effects on the mind and body. We think of many of these as signs of being drunk or hungover, but perhaps do not think about them in more depth. They include lowered inhibitions, slowed reflexes and reactions, slurred speech, difficulty controlling bodily movements, and lack of focus. People will also sometimes vomit or experience acid reflux due to consuming large amounts of alcohol. They may also experience gaps in memory or total loss of memory for prolonged periods. As well as the negative effects on the body and mind, these effects may also make a person more likely to become involved in conflicts or to engage in risky behaviour, such as drunk driving. Alcohol also makes a person much more likely to make bad decisions or to not properly consider the consequences of their words or actions.

Alcohol Poisoning

If a person drinks to such an extent that they develop alcohol poisoning, the effects can be extremely dangerous and may require immediate medical assistance. Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person has drunk enough that their blood alcohol content rises to a toxic level. This can cause a person to become extremely disoriented and unable to think clearly. It can also affect their heart rate and breathing. In extreme cases, a person with alcohol poisoning can fall into a coma.

Hangover is the term we use to describe the after effects of heavy alcohol consumption. A hangover will often involve severe headaches and tiredness. This is partially to do with the dehydrating effect alcohol has on the body. A person may also feel physically weak. In some cases, they may experience shakiness or blurred vision. Hangovers can also cause anxiety, lack of focus and slowed decision making. In certain situations, such as when a person is driving or taking responsibility for others, the effects of a hangover can prove dangerous.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol

There are many adverse effects of chronic alcohol abuse. It can severely impact the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, pancreas and stomach. Alcohol has also been linked to dementia, depression and anxiety. Many of these effects can result in serious illness and require extensive medical assistance. People struggling with alcohol dependence alongside related health issues often require professional support in order to quit drinking. Continuing drinking will make the associated health issues worse. There is a strong link between alcohol and various forms of cancer. However, CBC report that 70% of Canadians are unaware of this link.

Withdrawal from alcohol can be an intensely challenging experience for people with alcohol dependence. When neurotransmitters which have been suppressed by alcohol are no longer effected, they become overactive. This can cause intense agitation, confusion and a range of physical discomforts. Withdrawal symptoms can be so severe and potentially dangerous that medical professionals should manage the process.


Sustained alcohol misuse ultimately changes the way in which the brain communicates with the body. Chronic use can eventually change the structure of the brain. This makes quitting drinking extremely difficult, as the brain has been trained to depend upon alcohol. The changes in neurochemistry can effect decision-making, memory and concentration. People’s personalities may also be altered through alcohol dependence, as they may become more irritable or anti-social. In some cases alcohol misuse is interacts with concurrent disorders such as depression or anxiety disorder. As mentioned earlier, it is also a leading cause of early-onset dementia.


Alcohol is linked to a number of heart problems. These include cardiomyopathy, the weakening of the heart which makes it less effective in circulating blood around the body. Heavy drinking can also cause stroke and raised blood pressure. It can cause shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, and chest pain. Chronic alcohol dependence can ultimately lead to heart failure.


The liver is one of the organs most impacted by heavy drinking. It is responsible for breaking down alcohol for the body to digest, but having to continually break down large quantities can severely damage it. This makes it increasingly difficult for the liver to break down alcohol, meaning that it remains in a person’s system. Alcohol misuse can cause severe scarring of the liver, known as cirrhosis. It can also lead to fatty liver, which damages the liver’s functionality. In severe cases of chronic alcohol dependence, the liver can cease to function, meaning it no longer breaks down harmful substances. Without medical intervention, this condition is fatal. Liver disease also disrupts kidney function and can lead to kidney disease.


The kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood and removing damaging substances from the body. Chronic drinking forces the kidneys to work harder and can reduce their efficiency. This can lead to kidney damage, blood infection, and various other issues. Alcohol also raises blood pressure, which can cause kidney disease, and can also disrupt hormones which allow the kidneys to function properly. Chronic alcohol abuse can ultimately lead to kidney failure, which is fatal without extreme medical intervention such as transplant or dialysis.


The pancreas produces hormones and digestive juices which allow the body to digest food. These hormones include insulin, which controls blood sugar levels. Sustained heavy drinking can cause the pancreas to become inflamed and to lose its ability to function properly. Symptoms of pancreatitis often include vomiting, nausea, fever and abdominal pain. While some cases of pancreatitis do not cause lasting damage, others can be very serious. Pancreatitis can be permanent, meaning that the pancreas does not return to its previous, effective state. A person with chronic pancreatitis may experience ongoing pain, and will require permanent medication to digest food properly. Anyone with chronic pancreatitis, regardless of its cause, must stop drinking in order to prevent further damage and to allow the organ to recover.


Alcohol can also harm the stomach. It creates acid which can damage the stomach’s lining and functionality. Long-term alcohol dependence can also lead to stomach and gastrointestinal cancers. Alcohol can also damage the bowel, making the digestive process less efficient. This can also negatively impact the stomach.

Alcohol Addiction & Concurrent Disorders

Alcohol is often associated with concurrent disorders. People may use alcohol to cope with the symptoms of a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety. This type of drinking often develops into a dependence, as people become less able to deal with their problems without alcohol. People may also develop mental health problems through persistent alcohol misuse. Addiction treatment should always incorporate concurrent disorders into its programs, rather than focusing on the addiction in isolation. Through methods such as individual therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy, clients can identify the causes and consequences of concurrent disorders. They can also develop methods for dealing with them. Treatment for concurrent disorders gives a person a far better chance of achieving lasting recovery.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres offers dedicated, expert treatment for alcohol addiction and concurrent disorders. We use evidence-based methods such as individual therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, cue-exposure therapy and group counselling to give clients the best possible foundation for recovery. We offer both residential and outpatient treatment, and our programs are designed around the needs of the individual. Clients who complete Trafalgar’s addiction treatment programs are also provided with a detailed discharge plan and are offered our continued support through our Aftercare and ContinUcare programs. If you are concerned about your own or a loved one’s alcohol use, contact us, we can help.

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

We offer residential and outpatient rehab treatment programs for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

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