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Psychological Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse has many psychological effects on a person, causing issues that they may not realize until much later. While those who drink alcohol enjoy the buzz they receive from drinking, alcohol’s other psychological effects can be much more problematic.

Short Term Psychological Effects

Alcohol actually causes many short term psychological effects that can affect the way the brain processes things. Those who drink in the short term might experience these psychological effects of alcohol:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Relaxation and a reduction of stress and tension in the mind and body
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Memory problems
  • Impairment of vision, coordination, reflexes and other reactions controlled by the brain

According to the California courts’ website, someone who drinks alcohol in the short term could also experience “altered emotions,” especially at medium or higher doses of alcohol. Someone may act or feel strangely because of the use of alcohol, reacting to something much more strongly than they normally would.

The psychological effects of alcohol in the short term can cause just as many problems as other substances. Someone may not realize how impaired they are and attempt to drive or do other dangerous activities when under the influence. According to the NIAAA, “Some of these impairments are detectable after only one or two drinks and quickly resolve when drinking stops.” But some can lead to dangerous and deadly actions.

Long Term Psychological Effects

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Alcohol abuse causes and contributes to existing mental health challenges.

Just like its short term psychological effects, the long term psychological effects of alcohol can be devastating. The NIAAA states, “We do do know that heavy drinking may have extensive and far-reaching effects on the brain, ranging from simple ‘slips’ in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions that require lifetime custodial care.”

Some of the long term psychological effects of alcohol abuse, according to the CDC, are:

  • Alcohol dependence (alcoholism)
  • Mental health disorders including anxiety and depression
  • The inability to perform well at work and school due to these issues
  • “Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance”

Alcohol abuse over time also “disrupts normal brain development” which is especially problematic for those who start abusing alcohol at a young age. Blackouts and memory lapses also occur as a result of either short term or long term alcohol abuse, depending on how much the person drinks. Alcohol takes a large toll on the brain and its functions which will lead to many psychological issues the longer a person abuses it.

Factors Associated with Psychological Effects of Alcohol

A person obviously won’t develop dementia the first time they start drinking, but there are other factors involved in the cause of alcohol’s psychological effects. The NIAAA lists these factors, including:

  • Age of the person now, as well as the age when they first started drinking
  • Education level
  • Gender
  • Background
  • “Family history of alcoholism”
  • “How much and how often a person drinks”
  • General health status

All of these factors will affect the amount of psychological effects alcohol has on a person. Although someone may not be at risk for severe psychological effects presently, it is important to stay aware of the possibility, as alcohol abuse can become devastating, especially if it turns into alcoholism.


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