Alcohol has both short- and long-term effects on the body. The effects of alcohol depend on the amount of alcoholic beverage consumed and whether the consumption is light, moderate, or heavy. Heavy drinking can be a sign of alcoholism, which is alcohol addiction or dependency.
The effects of alcohol abuse over the long term are often harsh; if an alcoholic stops drinking, it doesn't take long for strong withdrawal symptoms such as severe shaking to result. Alcohol dependency is not only the psychological craving to drink, but is also physical in nature. The effects of alcohol consumption over a long period of time include fatigue and sleep problems. Heavy alcohol consumption can also cause organ damage — especially to the liver.
Studies on the long-term effects of alcohol consumed on a light to moderate basis aren't as clear. For example, many studies have shown drinking a glass of red wine a day benefits the heart, while other studies show that women who drink an alcoholic beverage daily may be at a higher risk for breast cancer. Basically, the effects are poison-like in different degrees that are difficult to determine exactly. For instance, the reason many people who drink a large amount of alcohol experience feeling intoxicated, as well as sick to the point of vomiting, is due to the short-term effects of alcohol poisoning. The incoherent behavior and vomiting that some people find an amusing side effect of drinking too much are in reality serious signs of poisoning.
Blurred vision and a slow response to stimuli are common alcohol effects that may occur with even light to moderate drinking. Alcohol lowers blood sugar, so diabetics must use caution if they consume alcoholic beverages. Alcohol's effects on the central nervous system are as a depressant. Blood alcohol content is the short-term measurement of the effects of drinking on the bloodstream. When drinking and driving is suspected, a breathalyzer test is given to determine the driver's blood alcohol content and whether it exceeds the legal limit.
The amount of alcohol a person can drink without experiencing any short-term effects depends on factors such as body weight and how much food is in the stomach. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach increases its effects. Having a glass of wine with dinner is very different from consuming high amounts of alcohol to become intoxicated. Drinking to intoxication, as well as on a regular basis to escape problems, are signs that the effects of alcohol are leading to abuse or dependency.