What are the Effects of Drinking Alcohol Every Day?

Published On: March 1, 2023

Drinking alcohol every day can drastically harm your physical and mental health. Over 8 million people in England are drinking too much alcohol every day according to the Government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.

Experts have warned that millions of people every year are causing dangerous levels of ‘silent harm’ to themselves and others, where levels of alcohol intake have drastically increased since the pandemic. [1]

Their latest data test concluded that there are twice as many men drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol than there are women.

Following the pandemic, people started drinking at home more often. When people party at home, they can drink for hours without an ‘end limit’, as your home doesn’t shut as a pub would.

People are less likely to keep track of measures, as it is more likely that they will ‘free-pour’ their drinks.

The ‘Recommended Amount’

People at a table toasting to a mix of drinks

The NHS recommends specific alcohol limits. The guideline is that adults should drink a maximum of 14 units per week but spread over more than 3 days. There is no ‘safe’ amount of alcohol, as everybody metabolises alcohol differently. [2]

There are so many different types of alcohol, mixed drinks, and shots. It is then very easy to misjudge how much you are drinking. The idea of alcohol units was introduced around 1987 as a way of helping people know the quantity of pure alcohol that is in each drink.

A single unit of alcohol is 8 grams of pure alcohol. This is called a ‘unit’ as it is the amount of alcohol that an average adult can process in a single hour. In theory, this means that an hour after drinking one unit, there should be no (or very little) alcohol left in your blood.

The NHS has stated that units per drink are based on alcohol strength, but it also takes into account the size of the drink. Knowing and understanding units will help you control the amount of alcohol you are drinking per day and every week.

To check the amount of alcohol in each drink, there is an ‘ABV’ label on the back of the bottle or can, or you can ask the bartender. ‘ABV’ stands for alcohol by volume, measuring the amount of alcohol as a percentage.

For example, wine might have 12% ABV on the back of the bottle. To work out the units, multiply the volume of the drink (mls) by its ABV, and then divide the number by 1000. So a 12% 750 ml bottle of wine would be roughly 9 units.

Binge drinking has been defined as a form of excessive drinking during one single occasion. Drinking more than 4 drinks for a woman, or more than 5 drinks for a man on one occasion is considered to be binge drinking. [3]

The NIAAA states that when men consume more the 4 drinks a day, or over 14 drinks a week, they are drinking heavily. Women that consume more than 3 drinks a day or more than 7 drinks a week are also ‘heavy drinkers’. [4]

When people are no longer in control of their alcohol consumption, they may be classed as dependent on alcohol or addicted to alcohol. Despite the negative consequences, emotional distress, and physical or mental impairment, alcoholics will keep drinking. [5]

Alcoholism is a chronic disease, diagnosed by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5).

In order to diagnose alcoholism, patients must present with more than 2 of the following criteria: [6]

  • Using alcohol in higher amounts or for a longer time than originally intended.
  • Being unable to cut down on alcohol use despite a desire to do so.
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • Cravings, or a strong desire to use alcohol.
  • Being unable to fulfil major obligations at home, work, or school because of alcohol use.
  • Continuing to abuse alcohol despite negative interpersonal or social problems that are likely due to alcohol use.
  • Giving up previously enjoyed social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use.
  • Using alcohol in physically dangerous situations (such as driving or operating machinery).
  • Continuing to abuse alcohol despite the presence of a psychological or physical problem that is probably due to alcohol use.
  • Having a tolerance (i.e., needing to drink increasingly large or more frequent amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired effect).
  • Developing symptoms of withdrawal when efforts are made to stop using alcohol.

Drinking every day is harmful in both the short term and the long term.

The Short-Term Effects of Drinking Every Day

Table of smiling people clinking alcoholic beverages

The GI tract (gastrointestinal tract) is an organ that leads directly from the mouth into the stomach, through the small intestine, and into the colon.

This is the first point of contact that alcohol has with the body, irritating the inner lining of the GI tract. This is likely to cause redness, swelling and inflammation.

This may lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease, or ‘GERD’. The inflammation caused by alcohol consumption is the body using blood cells to heal the damage the alcohol has caused. Over time, the inflammation damages tissues leading to GERD, cancer, and cell death.

The liver is the next point of contact for alcohol, so daily consumption of alcohol means the liver has to put in extra work. Alcohol is metabolised by enzymes (e.g. alcohol dehydrogenase) in the liver that helps break up and get rid of toxins.

Alcohol has a large effect on the liver, causing fatty liver, liver hepatitis, and possible fibrosis, which is permanent scarring of liver tissue. This inflammation and scarring of the liver can have severe long-term impacts, such as liver failure and Cirrhosis.

The heart has to work harder to push blood around the body as alcohol dehydrates you. This will increase blood pressure and may cause an irregular heartbeat.

As alcohol causes the body to lose fluid, this will increase the number of times people use the bathroom. Alcohol increases the amount of urine produced by the kidneys, causing people to ‘break the seal’ and use the bathroom a lot when drinking.

The body also tries to retain water (water retention) when consuming alcohol. This causes the body to have less water in it overall, meaning the kidneys are filtering a higher concentration of toxins and harmful substances.

In the future, this may lead to kidney failure and damage to other organs due to unfiltered substances and toxins.

Those who drink alcohol daily are more likely to have a poor diet. Research has suggested that alcohol impacts the hypothalamus in the brain, increasing appetite.

This leads to an intense feeling of hunger, most likely satisfied by fatty foods. During alcohol consumption, studies suggest that the brain releases galanin, explaining the need for fatty foods such as pizza or kebabs after a drinking session.

Having a poor diet may lead to high cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a form of blood fat produced in the liver, required to transport different molecules and lipids around the body.

However, too much cholesterol in the blood will damage the interior membranes of arteries and veins. This damage will cause a blood clot as the body is designed to clot where there is damage. If the clot enlarges, it may break off.

The clot will then travel around the body where it can cause serious damage, such as ending up in the heart and causing a stroke. [7]

We mustn’t forget that short-term alcohol risks are not just disease-related. Binge drinking can also result in: [8]

  • Severe injuries
  • Car crashes and motorbike crashes [9]
  • Falling
  • Drowning and burns
  • Extreme violence and assault [10] [11] [12]
  • Suicide
  • Alcohol poisoning [13]
  • Risky sexual behaviours
  • Miscarriage or stillbirth [14]
  • Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) [14]

Does Drinking Affect My Mental Health?

Man putting hand to the camera in 'no' or 'stop' gesture

It is not surprising that alcohol is closely linked to mental health. There is often a dual diagnosis concerning mental health; people who drink heavily are more likely to suffer from ill mental health, and those with mental health conditions are likely to self-medicate using alcohol and drugs.

Alcohol disrupts the balance of the brain’s neurotransmitters, affecting the chemical messengers in the brain. This changes feelings and thoughts, often affecting behaviour as a result.

Initially, alcohol relaxes you and makes you feel less stressed and more confident. This is because alcohol affects the brain’s control inhibitions.

However, these effects wear off and can quickly lead to anger, anxiety, and depression. This is often called ‘hangxiety’, as alcohol makes us feel depressed and anxious the following day.

Blacking out’ also makes us feel anxious, as we have gaps in our memory of the night. Blacking out tends to occur when someone drinks too much in a short space of time, blocking short-term memories from becoming long-term memories.

Drinking alcohol every day can reduce the level of neurotransmitters in the brain. The fewer neurotransmitters we have, the less likely we are to be able to fight mental health conditions.

This leads people to drink more in order to calm the effects of anxiety, or escape depression, but alcohol only exacerbates mental health conditions in the long run. If this is the case, you may be at the start of the cycle of dependence or addiction.

Alcohol is a depressant, but it can also affect:

  • Antisocial and harmful behaviour
  • Personal relationships
  • Motivation
  • Food cravings
  • Drug cravings
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Panic and anxiety
  • Sleeping
  • Skin appearance
  • Weight

The Long-Term Effects of Drinking Every Day

teen drink 2

The short-term damage from the gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidneys, heart and blood, can cause and exacerbate the development of severe diseases.

Most diseases or conditions caused by alcohol cannot be reversed once they are passed a certain point.

All health problems are helped by cutting back or quitting alcohol immediately, so it is important to seek help as soon as you notice any signs or symptoms.

The following are just a few of the long-term health risks that result from chronic alcohol abuse over time:

  • Anaemia: Anaemia is a haematological complication of alcoholism. Anaemia is a condition where the body is not creating enough red blood cells to transport oxygen to part of the body. Alcohol decreases the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow and causes ulcers and inflammation leading to blood loss. Those who drink heavily often suffer from malnutrition, as they are likely to have a poor diet and alcohol reduces nutrients and dehydrates the body. [15]
  • Cancer: Alcohol has been linked to the increase of oestrogen and insulin. These hormones are chemical messengers, where a higher level can cause significant cell division. With more cell division comes a higher chance of developing cancer. The most common cancers caused by alcohol are the mouth, oesophagus, throat, voice box, breast, liver, colon, and rectum.[16] [17]
  • Heart disease: Alcohol causes high blood pressure, putting strain on the heart muscles. This can lead to cardiovascular disease, putting patients at risk of strokes and heart attacks.
  • Cirrhosis: Cirrhosis is an end-stage liver disease, following a condition of the liver such as hepatitis. Cirrhosis is widespread fibrosis, characterised by scarring of the liver caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Cirrhosis will eventually leave the patient with life-threatening liver failure. [18]
  • WKS: Associated with alcoholism, Wernicke Korsakoff Syndrome is a two-stage condition. Korsakoff Syndrome is a memory disorder, resulting from the thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency caused by alcohol. This damages the brain and nerve cells, interrupting memory. Korsakoff Syndrome, if left untreated, will develop into Wernicke encephalopathy. This leaves the patient with ataxia (inability to control voluntary movement), confusion, and severe memory loss. [19]

Heavy drinking every day increases your chance of developing alcoholism or dependence on alcohol. Even moderate drinking, when done daily, increases your chances of health conditions.

This is why it is important to check the alcohol percentage and units on every alcoholic drink, so you are aware of how much you are drinking. Check the alcohol content and how many drinks per week you are consuming in order to avoid chronic drinking and its harmful effects.

There are limited benefits of alcohol consumption. Most people drink alcohol during social occasions, as it tends to have a relaxing effect and make people more ‘fun’.

However, as a depressant, alcohol increases the chances of mental health conditions, alcohol-related cancers, foetal alcohol syndrome, and other physical symptoms.

Long-term alcohol use is likely to lead to alcohol dependence, alcohol overdose and other adverse health effects. If you are worried about your drinking habits or related medical conditions, then reach out and get help – it is never too early.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jan/17/millions-in-uk-drinking-harmful-levels-of-alcohol-at-home-experts-warn#:~:text=Eight%20million%20people%20in%20England,levels%20considered%20to%20be%20dangerous.

[2] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-advice/calculating-alcohol-units/

[3] U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2020 – 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 9th Edition, Washington, DC; 2020.

[4] https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking

[5] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2018). Alcohol Use Disorder.

[6] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Publishing; 490-491.

[7] https://www.heartuk.org.uk/cholesterol/what-is-cholesterol

[8] https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

[9] Smith GS, Branas CC, Miller TR. Fatal nontraffic injuries involving alcohol: a metaanalysisAnn of Emer Med 1999;33(6):659–668.

[10] Greenfield LA. Alcohol and Crime: An Analysis of National Data on the Prevalence of Alcohol Involvement in Crime [PDF – 229 KB]. Report prepared for the Assistant Attorney General’s National Symposium on Alcohol Abuse and Crime. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 1998.

[11] Mohler-Kuo M, Dowdall GW, Koss M, Wechsler H. Correlates of rape while intoxicated in a national sample of college womenJournal of Studies on Alcohol 2004;65(1):37–45.

[12] Abbey A. Alcohol-related sexual assault: A common problem among college studentsJ Stud Alcohol Suppl 2002;14:118–128.

[13] Kanny D, Brewer RD, Mesnick JB, Paulozzi LJ, Naimi TS, Lu H. Vital Signs: Alcohol Poisoning Deaths — United States, 20102012MMWR 2015;63:1238-1242.

[14] Naimi TS, Lipscomb LE, Brewer RD, Colley BG. Binge drinking in the preconception period and the risk of unintended pregnancy: Implications for women and their childrenPediatrics 2003;11(5):1136–1141.


[16] Rehm J, Baliunas D, Borges GL, Graham K, Irving H, Kehoe T, et al. The relation between different dimensions of alcohol consumption and burden of disease: an overview. Addiction. 2010;105(5):817-43.

[17] International Agency for Research on Cancer. Personal Habits and Indoor Combustions: A Review of Human Carcinogens, Volume 100E 2012. Available from: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol100E/index.php.




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