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Alcohol Effects: Drinking, Hangovers & Your Liver

Alcohol Effects

Do you, like most of us, like to have a drink – or a few – when the opportunity arises?

Ever wondered why small amounts of alcohol can feel so good, but large amounts can be painful? Why do some people form drinking problems and not others? Scientists have been working hard for years to learn why people use, abuse and at times become addicted to alcohol. Their research has already led to better ways to treat and prevent alcohol-related problems, though there is still much to learn.

Alcohol use is quite common in the US. According to one survey, about two-thirds of American adults had at least 1 drink in the last year.

Generally, moderate or occasional drinking poses few problems. However, more than 1 in 10 adults struggle with alcoholism or alcohol dependence at one point in their lives. Close to 1 in 5 grapple with alcohol abuse, defined as harmful drinking that leads to missing work, neglecting family responsibilities or drinking in dangerous situations, like when driving. Long-term heavy drinking can cause liver damage, brain damage, inflammation of the pancreas, and several types of cancer.

Holidays are a prime time for problems from alcohol excesses – anything from an embarrassing remark to causing a deadly traffic accident. “The main problem with holiday drinking is that people are often drinking for longer periods of time than they normally do, and they’re staying up later than they normally do. They may not have a good frame of reference for how the alcohol will affect them,” says Dr. Dennis Twombly, a scientist on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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