What are the long term effects of alcohol consumption?


Chronic alcohol consumption has various detrimental effects on the brain and body as discussed by in the :

  • Brain Function and Behavior: Alcohol can cross the blood-brain barrier, impacting brain regions responsible for planning and suppressing impulsive behavior. Initial consumption can lead to a suppression of prefrontal cortex activity, impacting voice modulation, increasing impulsive behavior, and reducing inhibition. Chronic use can impair memory formation and storage 1.

  • Neurochemistry and Hormones: Alcoholism or regular drinking affects neural circuitry and neurochemistry beyond the immediate sensation of inebriation. This includes detrimental changes that persist after the immediate effects, like increased stress, diminished mood, and urge to drink even when not to reach previous levels of stress modulation or mood. These changes in the stress system and brain circuitry tend to worsen resilience to stress and overall mood 2.

  • Health Effects and Toxicity: Alcohol usage past two drinks a week can have negative health impacts. Ethanol is essentially a toxin for cells, and while moderate drinking might not cause immediate substantial health issues, chronic patterns can lead to significant alterations in neural circuitry and hormone systems 3.

    Alcohol's Effects

    Andrew explains how alcohol affects the brain by suppressing the prefrontal cortex, leading to impulsive behavior and memory loss.

    Huberman Lab

    What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain & Health | Huberman Lab Podcast #86
  • Hormonal Disruption: Alcohol, especially when consumed chronically, can increase the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in various tissues. This dysregulation in hormone levels may lead to negative effects like decreased sex drive, increased fat storage among other things, and increased risk for certain types of cancers 4.

  • Brain Degeneration: Chronic alcohol intake, even at low to moderate levels (one to two drinks per day), has been associated with thinning of the neocortex and other brain regions, indicative of brain degeneration 5.

  • Poison-Induced Effects: Alcohol consumption is poisoning, and the inebriation state is due to the disruptive effects of acetaldehyde (a toxic metabolite of ethanol) on neural circuits. Regular drinkers or those predisposed to alcoholism may feel energized and uplifted for longer periods, differing from occasional drinkers 6.

  • Gut-Liver-Brain Axis: Alcohol has serious effects on this axis, which has not been widely discussed. Regular drinking, termed as 'chronic' even at one to two drinks per night, can lead to damaging effects 7.

These clips from the and the provide insight on long-term alcohol consumption's impact on health and emphasize the importance of understanding these effects when making choices about alcohol use.