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The short-term risks of alcohol misuse include:

  • alcohol poisoning – this may lead to vomiting, seizures (fits) and falling unconscious
  • accidents and injuries requiring hospital treatment, such as a head injury
  • violent behaviour and being a victim of violence
  • unprotected sex that could potentially lead to unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • loss of personal possessions, such as wallets, keys or mobile phones

People who binge drink (drink heavily over a short period of time) are more likely to behave recklessly and are at greater risk of being in an accident.



Persistent alcohol misuse increases your risk of serious health conditions, including:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • liver disease
  • liver cancer and bowel cancer
  • pancreatitis

As well as causing serious health problems, long-term alcohol misuse can lead to social problems, such as unemployment, divorce, domestic abuse and homelessness.


If someone loses control over their drinking and has an excessive desire to drink, it’s known as dependent drinking (alcoholism).

Dependent drinking usually affects a person’s quality of life and relationships, but they may not always find it easy to see or accept this.

Severely dependent drinkers are often able to tolerate very high levels of alcohol in amounts that would dangerously affect or even kill some people.


A dependent drinker usually experiences physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly cut down or stop drinking, including:

  • hand tremors – “the shakes”
  • sweating
  • visual hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t real)
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • insomnia (difficulty sleeping)

This often leads to “relief drinking” to avoid withdrawal symptoms.


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