Heavy drinking is closely linked to a wide range of health problems, at least doubling the risk for heart disease, cancers of many types, and hypertension.
Risks for liver disease and for cancers of the mouth and gastrointestinal system are greatly increased by drinking above moderate levels.
Typically, alcohol dependent people are quite able to “hold their liquor,” showing less apparent intoxication from drinking than might be expected in the average person.
Such tolerance is misleading, however, because while it appears that the person is unaffected, in fact he or she has a sufficiently high blood alcohol level to cause serious acute and chronic risk.
Acute risk has to do with the immediate effects of intoxication.
Even low levels of alcohol in the bloodstream, for example, can significantly impair driving ability.
Memory problems are common in heavy drinkers, and the occurrence of memory blackouts is associated with brain impairment from alcohol.
A majority of crimes resulting in imprisonment are committed under the influence of alcohol, which is also associated with domestic violence.
Because alcoholic beverages differ in content, it is important here to define what constitutes “one drink.” A useful definition is that one standard drink contains one-half ounce of ethyl alcohol.
When moderation is exceeded, or when one drinks at all in dangerous situations, one enters the realm of risky drinking, which includes both acute and chronic risk.