Health, safety, legal and social consequences of drinking too much

When you drink too much, you put yourself at an increased risk of a variety of serious problems:

Health/safety consequences

Injury is the most likely health effect of a single incidence of drinking too much. But the types of injuries and the seriousness of injury can vary greatly depending on the circumstances (for example falls, road trauma and assault).

Alcohol poisoning, or overdosing on alcohol, can occur when you drink too much. Excessive alcohol consumption can affect your breathing, heart rate and gag reflex and potentially lead to coma and death.

While often physical scars fade, the psychological scars resulting from alcohol-related trauma can linger - sometimes for a lifetime. As well as some injuries such as head injury do not fully recover.

Legal consequences

Alcohol contributes to criminal behaviour.

Alcohol can reduce your inhibitions and lead you to behave in a way that you would not consider if you were sober. Incidents that you would deal with rationally when sober, can quickly escalate and get out of hand after a few drinks and may end up involving the police.

Alcohol-related offences include assault, sexual assault, assault of police, property damage, disorderly or offensive behaviour, hindering police, resisting arrest and driving.

But being arrested or charged can be just the start of your problems. You may have to spend time in jail or do community service. Many industries won't employ someone with a criminal history. You may lose your current employment because of the blot on your record or because you need to take time off work for court appearances or because you can't fulfil your work duties without a drivers license.

Legal problems can also result in relationship break-ups and friction between family members.

Social consequences

What people think about us affects how we feel about ourselves. A humiliating drinking incident such as vomiting or passing out can result in ridicule, social ostracism and other forms of bullying.

Hangovers can lead to time off work, poor work performance and workplace accidents, all of which could put your job at risk.

Drinking too much can also affect personal relationships. Usually the people close to someone who regularly drinks too much are adversely affected.

Teenagers of parents with alcohol problems tend to drink more frequently, more heavily, and more often alone than other teenagers. These teenagers tend to drink to cope or to forget their problems, in addition to the usual social motives for drinking, which are shared by most adolescent drinkers.

Other social consequences of drinking too much can include:

  • financial problems due to excessive spending on alcohol
  • limited career opportunities due to a conviction for an alcohol-related offence
  • impacts on work performance
  • losing friends because of the way you act when you're drunk
  • a limited group of friends, due to constantly socialising with other people who drink to excess
  • reduced sexual performance.