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Medical Problems Caused by Alcoholism

Learn about medical problems caused by alcoholism in this Howcast video featuring addictions specialist Paul J. Rinaldi, Ph.D.


I'm often asked if there are medical consequences to alcohol use. The answer is that if alcohol is used in a normal, meaning non-abusive way, no, there's rarely any medical consequences to alcohol use. However, when people use alcohol problematically, meaning that they use alcohol for an extended period of time throughout their life and in large amounts, medical consequences can develop. Some of those can be issues with one's liver. You can have problems, you can actually develop hepatitis through alcohol use, prolonged alcohol use. Hepatitis, as most people know, can be a life threatening disease and people who have hepatitis are more likely than others to develop liver cancer eventually so it's very serious. People also can develop gastrointestinal problems. They can develop a tremendous amount of gastrointestinal reflux, esophageal reflux, which over time, can cause actual what they call varices to your esophagus. Though that could actually be very dangerous because over time that can cause bleeding in one's esophagus, which can be medically extremely serious and in extreme cases, life threatening. People can develop ulcers because of alcohol because alcohol is highly acidic so it can really burn in the stomach. Another consequence that people develop is what's called pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas causing extreme pain for people, which often results in hospitalization or certainly, emergency room visits. Another consequence can be problems with kidney functions, where one's kidneys just stop working normally and stop processing the way they should and in severe cases, could actually shut down. So again, these consequences they can be anywhere from mild to severe and even life threatening. So again, with severe and prolonged alcohol use, people have to be extremely cautious and another medical consequence in very severe cases is brain functioning can change and people could actually become have brain functioning that changes where they really are dysfunctional over time. Again, these are very severe consequences but people even in the mildest forms, those mild forms, which can usually be mild gastrointestinal problems, those will progress if people continue to use alcohol problematically so one should really be careful of that and be very mindful of their bodies when they're drinking.

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