Dr. Sunil - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Sunil

Is Alcohol Bad For You?

Also Known As: liquor, booze, the bottle, the sauce



Short answer

Taken past moderate amounts, alcohol is incredibly dangerous - it's a toxic poison, in fact. However, a moderate introduction of ethanol into the system has several benefits for both one's physical and mental well-being.



Long answer

Alcohol has beneficial effects - both psychologically and physiologically. It is when it is taken in excess that problems arise. The CDC identifies moderate alcohol consumption as one glass of wine or beer per day for women and no more than two glasses for men. Taken in moderation, alcohol can prevent cardiac problems and improve the quality of life. The first benefit comes from the fact that ethanol, in moderation, improves endothelial function by increasing the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is necessary for dilating blood vessels, regulating blood pressure, and for vascular smooth muscle relaxation. Other health benefits of enjoying a moderate amount of alcohol include the reduction in postprandial blood sugar, as well as lowering iron count (important for people with an excess of iron in the body). Though, black tea and coffee have this same effect if you are not inclined to have a glass of beer or wine. Positive social effects include becoming more social and feeling less stressed. Imagine being at a business party right after a stressful day. Alcohol can help you relax and network, rather than be upset throughout the event.

Now, to the bad points. Note that the above benefits are when alcohol is taken IN MODERATION. For many people "moderation" should really be said to be "a little bit," as many believe "moderate drinking" means no more than four to five drinks. Once you get past a certain amount of ethanol intake (no more than two glasses for women and three for men), the benefits are no longer to be found and you are just dumping poison into your body. In fact, the benefits of moderate drinking themselves turn into negatives.

While ethanol in moderation increases endothelial function - in excess, it actually decreases it. While you may feel more social under the influence of copious amounts of alcohol, you are - in fact - most likely making a fool of yourself. Worse still, you are more likely to be the cause of harm to yourself or others. Alcohol is a culprit in 40% of all cases of aggression and nearly a quarter of all police cases involve alcohol. It is also behind approximately one-third of all fatal vehicle crashes in the United States. Excessive alcohol drinking also leads to severe liver damage and can lead to various forms of cancer.

If you want to enjoy alcohol - do so, but be intelligent about it. Other than the temporary euphoria of being drunk, there is nothing good about drinking too much.

Possible short-term side effects

  • judgment impaired
  • slurred speech
  • dehydration
  • nausea / vomiting
  • anemia
  • headache
  • blackout
  • unconsciousness
  • alcohol poisoning

Possible long-term side effects

  • excessive amounts over time:
  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • liver disease
  • alcoholism
  • nerve damage
  • brain damage
  • sexual problems

Possible withdrawal symptoms

  • shaky hands
  • sweating
  • mild anxiety
  • nausea
  • headache
  • vomiting
  • insomnia


  • small amounts:
  • increased libido
  • increased sociability
  • decreased risk of heart disease
  • promote longevity
  • decreased risk of dementia
  • decreased risk of diabetes
  • decreased risk of gallstones

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 12-28-2015
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Jeff Volling
Published on: 12-28-2015
Last updated: 12-10-2016

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