Alcohol Abuse Causes & Effects

The Rose provides alcohol addiction treatment for women rooted in a science-based, research-supported clinical model to ensure a healthier life. Our treatment experience was designed by women for women, so you or your loved one receive a tailored experience.

Understanding Alcohol Addiction

Learn about alcohol and substance abuse

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that is the most commonly abused drug in the United States. Alcohol is the product of the fermentation of sugars, starches, and yeast. In the form of ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, it is the intoxicating ingredient in beer, wine, and liquor.

Though alcohol is a depressant, initial consumption triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure, improved mood, and feelings of content.  As the drug continues to impact the body, it begins to slow the user’s breathing and heart rate, in addition to having a negative impact on her speech, thought patterns, motor skills, and coordination.

The clinical term for dependence upon alcohol, which is commonly referred to as alcoholism, is alcohol use disorder. This disorder has had caused incalculable damage to individuals, families, and communities throughout the United States and around the world.  Depending upon the nature and severity of a woman’s struggle with alcohol use disorder, it can be virtually impossible to end one’s dependence upon alcohol without professional intervention. However, specialized alcohol abuse treatment at comprehensive addiction centers has proved to be extremely effective in the effort to help women overcome the compulsion to abuse alcohol and make the lifestyle changes that will support long-term sobriety.


Alcohol addiction statistics

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that almost 88 percent of adults in the United States have abused alcohol. The NIAAA estimates that about 5.8 million women (or about 4.7 percent of the adult female population) meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder. Unfortunately, data collected by the NIAAA indicates that only 444,000 women (or about 7.4 percent of those who need treatment for alcohol use disorder) actually received professional help for this condition. About 88,000 people, including about 26,000 women, die every year in the United States from alcohol-related causes.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for alcohol addiction

Alcohol abuse and the development of alcohol use disorder may be influenced by several factors, including the following:

Genetic: According to the American Psychological Association, between 40 percent and 60 percent of the risk variance for developing alcohol use disorder is due to genetic influences. Individuals who have a parent or sibling who has developed alcohol use disorder are four times more likely to also struggle with alcohol use disorder than are members of the general population. Even when the children of individuals with alcohol use disorder are adopted by people who do not have this problem, the children are at significantly increased risk for developing the disorder.

Environmental: Growing up in a family or culture where alcohol use is emphasized may increase the likelihood that a person will abuse alcohol or develop alcohol use disorder. Being pressured by peers, having access to alcohol, and experiencing stress that exceeds one’s ability to cope can also influence the onset of alcohol abuse.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder
  • Cultural attitudes toward alcohol
  • Exaggerated positive expectations for the effects of alcohol
  • Suboptimal stress management capabilities
  • Trauma
  • Early involvement with alcohol abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction

The appearance of alcohol use disorder may vary depending upon several factors. However, the following are among the more common signs that may indicate that a person has been engaging in chronic alcohol abuse or has developed alcohol use disorder:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Spending a great deal of time acquiring, using, or recovering from alcohol use
  • Drinking in larger amounts or for longer periods of time than intended
  • Drinking alone or in secret
  • Drinking early in the morning and/or at intervals throughout the day
  • Becoming irritable or agitated when not able to drink
  • Hiding alcohol throughout the house or in the workplace
  • Continuing to drink even after experiencing negative consequences as a result of drinking alcohol

Physical symptoms:

  • Craving alcohol
  • Developing tolerance
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
  • Gaining weight and taking on a bloated appearance
  • Losing weight due to malnutrition
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal distress
  • Redness of the nose and cheeks

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Becoming fixated on thoughts related to drinking
  • Having trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Experiencing memory loss or blackouts
  • Feeling guilty after drinking to excess

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Withdrawing from significant activities in order to drink more
  • Needing alcohol to enjoy oneself
  • Using alcohol as a means of both celebrating successes and dealing with failures
  • Mood swings


Effects of alcohol addiction

Alcohol use disorder can have a detrimental impact on virtually all areas of a person’s life. The following are among the negative outcomes that can result from chronic untreated alcohol abuse:

  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Pancreatitis
  • Increased risk for certain cancers
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Injuries that result from alcohol-related accidents
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Anemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Academic failure and expulsion
  • Subpar occupational performance and job loss
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Family discord
  • Strained or failed relationships
  • Legal problems
  • Financial distress
  • Suicidal ideation

Co-Occurring Disorders

Alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorders

Individuals who develop alcohol use disorder may also be at increased risk for experiencing the following co-occurring mental health disorders:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Antisocial personality disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of alcohol withdrawal & overdose

Effects of alcohol withdrawal: When a person has become dependent upon alcohol, attempting to stop or significantly reduce one’s intake of this drug can lead to several unpleasant and even dangerous symptoms, including the following:

  • Strong cravings for alcohol
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Hand tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Anxiety

Effects of alcohol overdose: Alcohol overdose, which is also sometimes referred to as alcohol poisoning, occurs when a person ingests more alcohol than his or her body can metabolize. Alcohol overdose is a serious and potentially lethal condition that may be indicated by the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Irregular respiration
  • Low body temperature
  • Clammy, pale, or blue-tinged skin
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Seizure

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What turned into casual drinking developed into alcoholism. The Rose was able to help me get to the root cause of my alcoholism and got me the treatment that I deserved. I recommend them for anyone else struggling with alcoholism.

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