What condition is often a result of alcohol addiction?

Alcohol consumption contributes to almost 200 different types of conditions, diseases and injuries, both short-term and long-term. Some are rare, but many are common, and alcohol addiction will significantly increase your risk of developing one of them.

These conditions affect your physical and mental health and can be extremely debilitating. We will look at the most common conditions, the importance of early intervention, and what to do if you need advice on how to stop drinking or get help.


Short-term health risks

Alcohol addiction is capable of causing many long-term conditions. Many are slowed or reversed by getting alcohol help and quitting alcohol, but some are not.

Alcohol symptoms – the short-term effects of alcohol consumption – like loss of coordination, drowsiness and mood swings, increase the risk of getting into an accident or altercation that can result in injury. It is estimated that 35% of A&E visits and ambulance costs and 22-35% of GP visits are related to alcohol.

Mental health conditions

Mental health conditions cannot be said for certain to be caused by alcohol addiction, only that they co-occur. However, alcohol addiction makes co-occurring mental health conditions worse, whether it’s the cause or not. The 1996 UK National Comorbidity Study found that the lifetime occurrence of a mental health condition was higher among people who have alcoholism than in the general population – 48%. They also found that usually, the mental health condition came before the addiction, with the exception of mood disorders in men, which often came after. Consuming alcohol makes these conditions significantly worse.

It’s also not always possible to distinguish between mental and physical health conditions caused by misusing alcohol, as the line can sometimes be blurred. Alcohol is capable of inflicting major damage on the brain, which can cause or exacerbate an underlying mental health condition.

These are the most common mental health conditions caused by or co-occurring with alcohol addiction.


People with an alcohol addiction are 3.7 times more likely to suffer from major depressive disorder. Depression can be caused by abusing alcohol, but alcohol is also commonly used to self-medicate for symptoms of depression, creating a vicious cycle.


The National Comorbidity Study found a huge overlap between anxiety and alcohol misuse – and this differed between men and women. 35.8% of alcohol-dependent men surveyed had an anxiety disorder, and 60.7% of women. The study also found, among women, that having a prior anxiety disorder was strongly predictive of a future alcohol misuse disorder. This suggests that many people are attempting to self-medicate their anxiety with alcohol.

Bipolar, PTSD and Schizophrenia

While these conditions cannot be caused by alcohol addiction, they can all be exacerbated by alcohol misuse, decreasing inhibitions and increasing mood disturbances and impulsive behaviours.


Physical health conditions

The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies alcohol as a Group 1 Carcinogen – the highest-risk group. Alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer and affects pretty much every organ in the body, causing a huge array of physical health conditions.

The following is a list of the most common physical conditions caused by alcohol addiction.


As of 2020, about 4.1% of all new cancer cases worldwide were caused by alcohol. Alcohol is known to cause breast, bowel, mouth, throat, esophageal, larynx, pharynx and liver cancers. The risk of esophageal cancer, in particular, is five times higher for heavy drinkers.

Alcohol causes cancer by damaging cells and disrupting hormones. About 1 in 10 cases of breast cancer are caused by alcohol.

Cardiovascular disease

High blood pressure is one of the most serious symptoms of alcohol abuse. Many people claim that alcohol is good for the heart – but the evidence is patchy, and this is at very moderate levels, just one unit a day. This is equivalent to a small glass of wine, which is 125ml.

Scientists have observed a relationship between heavy drinking and high blood pressure, but the precise mechanism remains elusive. There are several possibilities. Alcohol could interrupt the function of your baroreceptors – these are sensors in your arteries that sense your blood pressure and send the information to the brain to maintain it. Nervous system disruption caused by heavy drinking could make your body more sensitive to stress responses and raise your blood pressure, as can higher cortisol levels caused by heavy drinking. Alcohol can also damage the inner lining of your blood vessels, called the endothelium, and this inflammation can raise blood pressure.

High blood pressure from drinking is related to an array of disorders of the heart and circulatory system – heart failure, strokes and cardiomyopathy, and a weakening of the muscles in the heart.

Cardiovascular disease kills 43,000 people a year in the UK, and heavy drinking significantly increases this risk.

Brain damage

Because heavy drinking increases blood pressure, it can increase the risk of vascular dementia, which is caused by mini-strokes and a narrowing of blood vessels in the brain.

Alcohol can damage the brain in several ways. Alcohol-related dementia and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome are both caused by heavy drinking, although the latter is relatively rare. It’s caused by alcohol, preventing the body from getting enough thiamine.

Weakened immune system

A single session of 5-6 drinks can suppress the immune system for up to 24 hours.

In the long term, alcohol slows the immune system’s response to infections, leading to more intense and longer illnesses. This affects the lungs particularly strongly, leading to weakened lung function and a 3-7 times higher susceptibility to lung conditions like pneumonia.

Liver disease

Because alcohol is processed in the liver, it is particularly susceptible to damage by alcohol. Alcohol-related liver disease is progressive, but by the time you experience symptoms, you may have significant liver damage.

Some alcoholic liver damage is reversible, but some, like cirrhosis, which is significant scarring of the liver, is not. However, even when this stage is reached, stopping drinking can prevent further damage and significantly extend your lifespan.

Alcohol is responsible for 6/10 cases of liver disease in the UK, and up to one in five people drink alcohol in a way that could damage their liver.

Early intervention and alcohol addiction treatment

The majority of the conditions above are the result of sustained, heavy drinking, meaning early intervention can significantly reduce the risk of developing them. Getting alcoholism treatment as early as possible not only reduces the risk of these conditions but also helps to prevent an alcohol misuse disorder from worsening. The best time to get help is as soon as possible.

Getting help

Alcohol addiction can turn into an emergency at any time and require urgent alcohol rehab – but it doesn’t have to be this way. Treatment of alcoholism can be done before it becomes urgent, allowing you to face your addiction before reaching rock bottom and reducing the risk of developing one of the up to 200 diseases, conditions and injuries that are outcomes of alcoholism.

Alcohol misuse is the single biggest risk factor for disability and death for 15-49 year olds in the UK. Alcoholism treatment is the best way to give yourself the greatest chance of living a longer, healthier, happier life. Contact us today and see how we can help.