The Effects of Alcohol on the Body

The effects of alcohol on many parts of the body is profound.   Alcohol is the intoxicating substance found in beer, wine and other spirits. It is formed naturally when a few micro-organisms metabolize carbohydrates in the absence of oxygen. This process is called fermentation.

A Drink

Beer, wine and hard liquor contain differing amounts of alcohol. The proof is the amount of alcohol that is in those beverages. For example, 100 proof liquor means 50% of the bottle is alcohol. Wine contains between 8 and 14% alcohol and beer, 4 to 6%.

The amount of alcohol an individual can safely drink varies greatly for each person. It depends on age, sex, genetics, family history and other factors.

A drink is usually defined as follows:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 4-5 ounces of wine
  • 10 ounces of wine cooler
  • 1-1/4 ounces of distilled liquor (80 proof whiskey, scotch, vodka, rum)

 Alcohol in the Liver

Unlike foods, which needs a digestion period, alcohol gets metabolized very quickly. In fact, it mainly at the head of the class when it comes to being absorbed and metabolized prior to most other nutrients. About one-fifth of alcohol gets absorbed in the stomach where it breaks down. This, and the fact that another 10% of alcohol gets expelled via the urine and breath, means that about 30% of the alcohol does not enter the blood.

The blood that contains alcohol makes its way to the liver through the veins and capillaries of the digestive tracts. This impacts just about every liver cell. That’s because the liver cells are the only ones that are able to produce enough alcohol dehydrogenase which oxidizes alcohol at a quick rate.

While alcohol affects other organs, the liver bears the brunt of the impact. Fatty livers develop because the liver cells metabolize alcohol first which allows other fatty acids the liver is supposed to metabolize to accumulate. Eventually, this changes the cell structure of the liver hindering the ability for the organ to metabolize fats.

Fatty liver is first stage of the deterioration of the liver, especially in heavy drinkers. Eventually the cells will scar and die and the most serious cases result in cirrhosis of the liver.


Moderate drinkers may see an increase in appetite because food intake is not suppressed. However, chronic alcohol consumption appears to do just the opposite. Because alcohol causes euphoria, the appetite gets depressed. This means that heavy drinkers tend to eat poorly an can become malnourished.

The calories in alcohol do not contain any nutrients. As such it interferes with the metabolism of real nutrients which can negatively impact the liver, the digestive system and just about every organ in the body.

Alcohol abuse or alcoholism  can be very hard to deal with, especially by yourself.  At Recovery First, we have the right program to help you through this serious,  possibly dangerous addiction. Call the number at the top of your screen now for immediate help, or fill out the insurance verification form that appears to the right on every page to check your coverage.  If you need help dealing with your struggles with alcohol, we’re here for you, 24 hours per day.

About The Contributor

Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff, American Addiction Centers

The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More

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