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Psychological Effects of Alcohol Abuse



Medically Reviewed by Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.

Alcohol abuse has many physical and psychological effects on the user. The physical effects are usually quite obvious, but the psychological issues may be more subtle and are often broader and harder to treat. Not only is the abuser damaged, but the effects often impact those around them.

Short-Term Psychological Effects

As alcohol messes with brain chemistry, it causes many short-term psychological effects, including:

  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Relaxation/reduction of stress and tension
  • Lowered inhibitions and lack of impulse control, sometimes leading to aggression
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Poor judgment
  • Short-term memory impairment — forgetting what one did while drunk
  • Altered emotional states — overreacting, moodiness
  • Impairment of coordination, vision, and reflexes

The short-term effects of alcohol rival those of other substances, appearing after only one or two drinks, but they disappear relatively quickly once drinking ends and sobriety returns.

Long-Term Psychological Effects

Consistent alcohol abuse creates new and aggravates existing mental health issues. The long-term psychological and physical effects of alcohol abuse can be dangerous and life-altering. Some of the most common long-term psychological effects include:

  • Alcohol dependence (alcoholism)
  • Increased risk of mental health disorders (including anxiety and depression). Alcohol is a depressant and may drive severely depressed individuals to suicide or other forms of self-harm
  • Psychosis, hallucinations, and delusions of persecution
  • Learning and memory problems (including dementia)
  • Increased tolerance to alcohol, often leading to increased usage to achieve the same effects
  • Disruption of normal sleep patterns
  • Blackouts and memory lapses. Continuous heavy drinking may cause physical damage to the brain, resulting in permanent memory issues.

Alcohol, Psychological Effects, and The Brain

Alcohol has severe effects on the brain and will lead to many psychological issues the longer it is abused. This is a particularly serious problem for those abusing alcohol at a young age. The younger a person starts abusing alcohol, the more likely they will be abusing it later. Young people who abuse alcohol tend to develop to higher tolerance, thus increasing the likelihood of physical and psychological addiction.

The physical effects of alcohol abuse often worsen the psychological ones, encouraging “escape” by increased drinking and creating a vicious downward spiral leading to full-blown clinical depression. The classic physical harms include liver damage, high blood pressure, digestive issues, kidney damage, damage, weight loss/gain, sleep disorders, and potentially cancer.

Many factors influence the severity and speed at which these problems manifest beyond simply how much or how often someone drinks. These include current age and physical condition, the length of time the abuse has been occurring, gender, family history of alcoholism, and even education level.

How Is Alcohol Abuse Treated?

Once alcohol abuse has been recognized, treatment or rehab should begin immediately. The sooner treatment starts, the less likely there will be lasting negative effects — and the more likely the rehab program will have positive results. Treatment programs should address physical and psychological addictions, heal the physical problems, and deal with the psychological effects. However, rehabilitation programs must address the underlying causes that trigger the desire to escape through alcohol to be truly effective. Various treatment and rehab programs are available, ranging from counseling and support groups to physical detox programs. The most successful programs combine all aspects.

Here at Into Action Recovery, we offer:

Why Choose Into Action Recovery Centers?

Into Action Recovery Centers takes pride in providing a high level of treatment and a holistic approach to recovery for those who suffer from addiction. Our comfortable facility is designed with the client’s needs foremost in mind. Our staff includes master’s level counselors, licensed chemical dependency counselors, 24-hour nursing professionals, a psychiatrist, a staff chef, and direct care personnel. Our counseling staff provides individualized treatment and care for our clients with an emphasis on tailoring treatment to the specific needs of each individual. Additionally, our staff provides family counseling, relapse prevention, life skills, and grief and trauma counseling.

Into Action Recovery Centers provides an abstinence-based program, and all our staff members have a strong understanding of the recovery process through personal experience. We are passionate about sharing the process of living a drug and alcohol-free life. We offer free aftercare for the men who complete our program and have a strong alumni network that remains active in the community. We also offer other amenities such as dietician-prepared meals, mindfulness-based meditation training, outings, and fitness training.

Contact Us Today

Abusing alcohol can lead to short-term and long-term psychological effects. Our addiction treatment programs can help reverse those effects.

Contact our team if you or someone in your life is dealing with alcohol abuse or alcoholism. We are here to help.


Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.

Dr. Saeed is a psychiatry specialist with over 40 years of experience in the medical field. He received training in General Psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Branch, where he was selected as the Medical Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He currently serves as the medical director at Into Action Recovery Centers. Full Bio

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