This Is What Happens When You Drink Too Much Alcohol

Whether it's the occasional night out with friends or the habitual weeknight happy hour, alcohol consumption adds up. But when does it become too much? According to Harvard Medical School, excessive drinking is defined as "more than one drink per day for women and more than one or two drinks per day for men." But beyond the chronic drinker, there is also the beloved binge drinker. A binge drinker does an excessive amount of drinking in one sitting, which translates to five drinks or more for a man and four or more for a woman (via Foundation for a Drug-Free World). 

Neither type of drinking is a good idea. And while being a teetotaler might not sound all that exciting, drinking too much can lead to all types of health problems, both in the short and long term. An estimated 88,000 men and women die from alcohol-related causes each year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in America, per the National Institutes of Health. So might be a good idea to take a look at what happens to your body when you drink too much alcohol before your next night of debauchery.

Drinking too much can impair your senses

When we drink too much, it also impairs balance and coordination. Notably, many of us also find it difficult to think quickly and rationally. Michael Jay Nusbaum, MD, FACS, FASMBS, chief of Bariatric Surgery at Morristown Medical Center told Aaptiv that this has to do with how alcohol affects our brain's frontal lobe, which controls our ability to make sound judgments. This can lead to drunk driving, car accidents, falls, drowning, and death in the worst cases (via the CDC) or the proverbial humiliation of texting an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.

Drinking too much may change our attitude and even harm our mental health. We can become belligerent, for instance. Additionally, Dr. Adam Perlman, an integrative health and well-being expert at Duke University, told Aaptiv, "It [alcohol] affects our brains and the chemicals in our brains ... in ways that make it more difficult for us to manage stress and lead to increased risk for depression, anxiety, and even suicide."

It can lead to cottonmouth and a drop in blood sugar

If you've ever woken up with what some affectionately call cottonmouth, you know what it feels like when your mouth is so dry it seems like you aren't even producing any saliva. This is a telltale sign you've had too much to drink. You are dehydrated. As Executive Home Detox explains, alcohol is a diuretic, so when we drink too much, instead of absorbing water like our bodies are wired to do, it gets pushed out when we urinate. Excessive dehydration can damage the kidneys and other vital organs. It can also lead to a drop in blood pressure and cause a serious headache that even hair of the dog can't fix.

Per WebMD, moderate drinking may cause a spike in blood sugar, but too much booze can cause your blood sugar to drop, sometimes drastically. This can be a dangerous situation for those who suffer from type 1 diabetes. Per Aaptiv, when your blood sugar drops like that, you can probably expect a hardcore headache along with other side effects that could include mood changes or the shakes.

The short- and long-term effects of excessive alcohol

Drinking excessively can have some serious short and long term effects on our bodies as well. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol likes to mess with all of your body's organs. It quickly makes its way into your bloodstream as your liver tries to burn it off. But the liver has its limitations and can only burn off a small amount at a time, so the remaining alcohol makes its way through our body's internal maize and unleashes havoc. This can result in short term effects like blood poisoning for bingers or for chronic drinkers, it can lead to even more serious conditions like alcohol dependency, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, and cancer to name a few (via CDC).

And if none of that sways you to think twice before you over imbibe, perhaps vanity will. Alcohol can also pack on the pounds and make you have to suck in your gut as you try to button your favorite jeans. Dr. Nussbaum told Aaptiv, "Alcohol contains hundreds, if not thousands, of empty calories ... some mixed drinks can contain an entire day's worth of calories."