The Short-Term Impacts of Alcohol

Last month we examined the long-term health consequences that accompany alcohol use. The negative ramifications included: cardiovascular disease, liver problems, cancer, mental health problems, digestive diseases, and cognitive impairments to name just a few. 


This month, we are taking a closer look at how alcohol use and abuse can affect the human body in the minutes and hours after consumption. Remember that alcohol impacts everyone differently depending on factors that we will examine below. 

Determining Factors In Alcohol’s Effects

Short-term effects may vary depending upon a few classifications including: 

  • how much alcohol is consumed (keep in mind that beer, liquor, and wine may impact individuals very differently) 
  • how quickly the alcohol was ingested
  • the weight, gender, and body fat percentage of the individual
  • whether or not they have eaten in the past few hours
  • the general speed of metabolism of the individual

First Signs of Alcohol’s Side Effects

Depending on the factors listed above, the alcohol will be absorbed into the bloodstream by blood vessels in the stomach lining and small intestine. This can happen within a few minutes after ingesting a beverage. 


At first, the individual may begin feeling relaxed, uninhibited, or even out-of-sorts. The physical side effects could also include: 


  • A distortion of perception
  • Impaired judgement
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Distorted vision and hearing 
  • Ringing ears
  • Lack of coordination 

Dangerous Effects

While the side effects of alcohol listed above may seem damaging enough, there are further consequences that could be life threatening. If enough alcohol is taken into the body quickly it could lead to: seizures, low body temperature, blood alcohol poisoning, loss of consciousness, blackouts, amnesia, loss of vision or hearing, and even coma. Many individuals who ingest too much alcohol, too rapidly may also experience cognitive confusion. 

A Word on Hangovers 

While the hours after ingesting alcohol can be fun and relaxing, the morning after (or the wee hours of the morning) may be tough for those who have imbibed too much. An excess of alcohol can lead to severe dehydration symptoms including: headaches, nausea, dry throat, fatigue, racing heart, and diarrhea. 

Whether you are a regular or occasional drinker, you could suffer from these short-term effects at any time (depending upon consumption). As for ways to avoid these consequences, try drinking less, slowing the rate of absorption, or eating a meal before having a drink. This could slow the rate that the body absorbs the alcohol and therefore how it impacts the body and mind. For more information on alcohol’s impact in the human body check out Foundation for a Drug Free World’s resources online.