Alcohol consumption has been associated with a range of diseases that may cause death and adverse effects that reduce quality of life.
- Cardiovascular disease The effect of alcohol on the cardiovascular system is complex. Alcohol can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of arrhythmias (fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat), shortness of breath, some types of cardiac failure, hemorrhagic stroke and other circulatory problems.
- Cancers Alcohol is increasingly associated with a raised risk of cancer: a recent report by the International Agency for Cancer Research (Baan et al 2007) found convincing evidence that alcohol is carcinogenic to humans, being causally related to cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and female breast.
- Nutrition-related conditions Alcohol consumption is linked to malnutrition, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, folate deficiency, Vitamin A depletion and pellagra (NHMRC 2001).
- Overweight and obesity Alcohol adds kilojoules to the normal diet and may also increase your appetite, which often results in late night, fast food binges. The amount of alcohol consumed, how often you drink and genetic factors all influence an individual’s tendency to gain weight (Suter 2005).
- Liver diseases Alcohol consumption is the most common cause of cirrhosis of the liver, and drinking alcohol over many years can cause cirrhosis in the absence of other causes (NHMRC 2001). The presence of conditions such as hepatitis B or C increases the effects of alcohol in contributing to development and course of cirrhosis.
- Mental health conditions There is growing evidence that alcohol increases the risk of highly prevalent mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety in some people, and may affect the efficacy of anti-depressant medication (Loxley et al 2004):
Alcohol dependence and major depression can be related. Alcohol dependence increases the risk of having major depression and the presence of major depression can increase the risk of developing a dependence on alcohol. Around 40 per cent of people seeking treatment for alcohol dependence will also have a major depressive disorder in their lifetime. Major depression combined with alcohol dependence can increase the risk of violence and suicidal behaviour.
The effects of excessive alcohol consumption on those around you:
Drinking beyond your limits can affect your family, friends and work in ways that you might not even be aware of. The effects of alcohol consumption go beyond diseases, accidents and injuries to a range of adverse social consequences, both for the drinker and for others in the community. These include harm to family members (including children) and to friends and workmates, as well as to bystanders and strangers. Concerns to the community that are associated with alcohol use include noise, litter, offensive behaviour, vandalism, aggression, petty crime, assault and road safety issues (Loxley et al 2004). Many of these social consequences can result in offence, violence or injury to others.