Billions of dollars are spent each year to market alcohol; likewise, billions of dollars are spent each year to treat alcohol-related harm. Alcohol is a drug--although it might not be commonly thought of as such--but unlike most recreational drugs, alcohol is legal, easily accessible, and socially acceptable. 

The human body can only process one standard alcoholic drink per hour. Most drinkers regularly go overboard, consuming far more than that. Here, Winnipeg fitness coach and nutrition expert Gabriel Patterson shares some of the ways alcohol can harm your body and mind if you habitually drink too much. 

Physical Ailments 

Making a fool of yourself and facing a hangover the next day should be the least of your concerns. Alcohol slows down brain function, inhibits control over the central nervous system, and dangerously dehydrates the body, so think twice before doubling up on those drinks. 

It's well known how much damage high alcohol intake can cause to the liver; however, recent studies have proven a link between excessive alcohol consumption and cancer, particularly breast cancer and cancers of the mouth or throat.

If you consume too much alcohol, the body identifies it as a poison and works overtime to eliminate it, which strains all organs in the body. To avoid this extra labor, don't drink more than your body can process. 

Alcohol is made from sugar and starch, and therefore contains an astonishing amount of calories. Most of these are empty calories, providing little nutritional value. Drinking a lot of alcohol frequently can lead to weight gain, so if maintaining a healthy weight is a priority, cutting back on alcohol is a must.

Cognitive Impairment 

Alcohol alters brain chemistry. Temporarily, it produces a positive, relaxing effect; however, excessive drinking encourages negative emotions to take over. People with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness should be careful to avoid self-medicating with excessive alcohol. 

When enough alcohol is consumed, the brain stops creating memories. It stops recording, causing memory blackouts. Anyone who's woken up from an all-night bender with no idea where they are or how they got there knows this is true. Blackouts are extremely dangerous--not to mention scary-but are avoidable if you learn when to say you've had enough. 


Society tends to view drinkers as those who can drink, and those who can't drink. It is not that simple. Alcohol is highly addictive and a serious alcohol problem does not develop overnight. It is a slow, nuanced process. The less alcohol consumed at a time, the less likely you are to fall into the trap of alcohol abuse and addiction. There is no need to hit rock bottom before cutting back. If you feel that you are going a bit too far, stop before it becomes a problem.

Gabriel Patterson explains that mindful, moderate alcohol consumption is essential if you choose to drink. Moderation doesn't have to mean not drinking at all, it means allowing yourself to enjoy alcohol while avoiding the negative consequences of excessive drinking. Turning down one more drink at the end of the night might not seem like a big deal, but small changes can make a huge difference in your health.