Has alcohol affected my growth?

Physical effects of alcohol

Consumed in large quantities, alcohol acts as a cell poison and damages practically all organ systems in the body.

How much alcohol is safe?

According to a recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO), the safe alcohol consumption for men is 24 grams and for women 16 grams of pure alcohol per day. As a guideline: 20 grams of pure alcohol correspond to half a liter of beer or a quarter of a liter of wine.

Basically, any regular consumption of alcohol indicates a possible alcohol problem. Especially when the alcohol is not consumed for pleasure, but for its effect (relaxation, problem solving).

+++ More on the topic: Alcohol: Between Indulgence and Abuse +++

Why is alcohol harmful?

Alcohol is highly addictive. It can create a strong psychological and physical dependence and damage almost all organ systems over time.

Why is alcohol more harmful to women than to men?

Women generally tolerate alcohol less well than men, which means that the same amount of alcohol is more harmful to women than men. This is mainly due to the fact that women have on average more body fat and less water in their tissues in relation to their body weight. Since alcohol dissolves better in water than in fat, the blood alcohol concentration after the same amount of alcohol is higher in women than in men with the same body weight. In addition, the amount of the alcohol-degrading enzyme ADH (alcohol dehydrogenase) is lower in women than in men.

Immediate effects of alcohol consumption

Alcohol affects not only perception, ability to react and alertness, but also behavior. With increasing alcohol consumption, there are also physical effects that can sometimes be life-threatening.

From 0.5 per milleConcentration, attention and ability to react decrease, imbalance begins, greater willingness to take risks, increased urge to talk
From 0.8 per milleBeginning signs of drunkenness: Alcohol plume, beginning loss of coordination of movements, greatly extended reaction time, impaired perception
From 1 per milleBeginning state of intoxication: Sense of balance and ability to react severely impaired, confusion, language and orientation disorders, overestimation of oneself, mood swings, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness
From 2 per milleStage of anesthesia: severe balance and memory disorders, hardly any ability to react, muscles slacken
From 3 per milleBeginning disturbances of consciousness up to a coma, memory loss, slack muscles, lowered body temperature, shortness of breath up to respiratory paralysis
From 4 per mille

Coma, failure of vital organ functions

+++ More on the topic: Alcoholism +++

Long-term effects of chronic alcohol use

After years of excessive alcohol consumption, there are usually significant health effects. The liver is most commonly affected, but alcohol can also damage almost all other organ systems.


Alcohol is broken down in the liver. Excessive alcohol consumption causes damage to liver cells and an accumulation of fatty acids in the liver. Over the years, this develops into an alcoholic fatty liver, which can later develop into jaundice, cirrhosis or even liver cancer. Long-term alcohol consumption also increases the iron content in the blood, which also damages the liver cells.

Stomach and intestines

Inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis) and subsequent bleeding in the stomach and intestines


Inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis) and Mallory-Weiss syndrome (tears in the mucous membrane at the junction between the esophagus and the stomach, which can be caused by vomiting and which can very easily lead to bleeding)


Chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)

Wernicke encephalopathy

The alcohol-related vitamin B1 deficiency causes symptoms such as clouding of consciousness, confusion, eye movement disorders and ataxias.


Long-term excessive alcohol consumption leads to increased blood pressure and thus promotes heart attacks. In addition, there is an enlargement of the heart, which can ultimately lead to a reduced performance of the organ (heart failure).

Nervous system

Damage to the nerve tracts (polyneuropathies) become noticeable through numbness, abnormal sensations such as ants tingling, muscle weakness or cramps or nerve pain. Polyneuropathies affect around 20% of all alcoholics; The nerve damage is clearly visible from the outside due to the typical unsafe, clumsy gait.


Alcohol consumption leads to a weakening of the immune system and thus to an increased susceptibility to fungal or bacterial infections of the skin. Existing skin diseases can get worse due to alcohol.


Damage to brain cells leads to disorders of memory, fine motor skills and the ability to concentrate. As a result, mental illnesses such as depression, phobias and / or psychoses with a risk of suicide can develop. The death of entire brain structures that are responsible for memory and orientation is also possible (Korsakoff syndrome).


People who drink alcohol excessively are at increased risk of developing cancers, particularly of the oral cavity, throat, esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver and pancreas.

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Dr. med. Anita Kreilhuber (2014), Astrid Leitner (2020)
Medical review:
Dr. Roland Mader, specialist in psychiatry and neurology, Anton Proksch Institute, Vienna
Editorial editing:
Mag. (FH) Silvia Hecher, MSc, Dr. med. Stefanie Sperlich, Mag.Julia Wild (2020)

Updated on:

Anton Proksch Institute; www.antonprokschinstitut.at (accessed in July 2012)

Guideline for the social medical assessment of addiction disorders of the German pension insurance www.sucht.de/tl_files/pdf/veroeffnahmungen/Leitlinie_Soz-Med_DRV.pdf Status: April 20, 2010

S2 guideline "Post-acute treatment of alcohol-related disorders" of the German Society for Addiction Research and the German Society for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Neurology, as of October 18, 2010
Batra A, Bilke-Hentsch O: Practice book addiction; Thieme, 2012

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