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health risks of alcoholism

Health Risks of Functioning Alcoholism: What’s at Stake?

The danger is severe. The health problems caused by functioning alcoholism are enough to kill the affected individual. Functioning alcoholism is a silent killer — as the loved ones won’t even notice their family member’s problem. This occurs because the person seems to have all aspects of their life working despite the alcohol dependence.

Most functioning alcoholics don’t know what exactly is at stake since their lives aren’t at a halt because of alcohol. But the damaging effects of functioning alcoholism on the addict’s health can be far-reaching.

We’ll explore the health risks of functioning alcoholism. Read on to learn what you’re risking by taking alcohol in large quantities.

What Is Functioning Alcoholism and The Psychology Behind It?

Functioning alcoholism refers to alcoholics with regular lives. A functional alcoholic usually has a good education, job, family, and social relationships. A 2023 report suggests that most professionals have alcoholism. Professionals can get away with functional alcoholism because they show up and seem to get their work done.

But it doesn’t mean they’re not addicts with health risks. Certain factors influence functional alcoholism, including:

  • Drinking as a teen: Alcohol is a beverage for adults. But, many teenagers are consumers today. In turn, this can lead to dependence on the substance.
  • Work colleagues: A stressful job or alcoholic colleagues can lead any individual to drink regularly.
  • Ptsd and Depression: Individuals with traumatic experiences and PTSD have a higher chance of becoming functional alcoholics.
  • Genetics: According to a 2023 New York Times Report, your genes can influence your chances of becoming an alcoholic. So, if you have a family history of alcohol abuse, you should err on the side of caution when it comes to drinking.

Related Article: The Psychology Behind Functioning Alcoholism: Understanding the Mindset

Health Risks of Functioning Alcoholism

Functional alcoholics hardly know the risks involved with their habits. Here is why functional alcoholism is dangerous;

Accidents and Injuries

Accidents and injuries are the short-term effects of heavy alcohol intake. Alcohol takes over your thinking and decision-making.

In addition, it can also cause a staggering stance. If you have to go back home after heavy drinking, you may fall and sustain minor injuries. And in worse cases, a ghastly accident may occur.

Alcohol Use Disorders

There’s a high chance that your alcohol dependence already affects your life, but it’s not evident. Many functional alcoholics only struggle to manage their jobs with their alcohol dependence.

They may miss deadlines at work, have a broken relationship with their spouses, or get late to class. But they find a way to keep it going.

It’s only a matter of time before the alcohol consumption increases. The functioning alcoholic may develop a complete alcohol use disorder(AUD)

AUD is a situation when you start experiencing the adverse effects of alcohol but can’t stop its intake. An AUD patient may face health problems due to functioning alcoholism and still won’t quit.

Functional alcoholics already have an AUD and need alcohol addiction treatment immediately. If not, the situation will get worse.

alcohol use disorders

Lower Immunity

Your immune system is responsible for fighting diseases and making you function optimally. The strength of the immune system depends on what you feed it. If you consume healthy meals and beverages, you’ll have strong immunity.

Alcohol is an unhealthy substance to feed your immune system — as it weakens it. As such, you’ll grow more susceptible to illnesses.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 8% of tuberculosis cases have a link to heavy alcohol intake. It’s the same case with other diseases that alcohol can cause.

Organ Diseases

Your body system is like a company with multiple departments working tirelessly to make things smooth. These various departments are organs with their respective functions.

Alcohol affects several organs in the body adversely. It’s cheaper and better to opt for treatment programs in Toronto for high-functioning alcoholism before it affects organs. Transplanting or managing these organs costs a fortune.

Some of the organs affected by alcohol include;


Your liver has a direct relationship with alcohol — as it’s the organ responsible for removing alcohol from your blood. Heavy drinking means you’re overworking the liver. As such, you’ll have bad fats from the alcohol in the liver.

Fats in your liver can cause hepatitis, liver failure, and cirrhosis.


Your brain is the organ that feels the intoxicating effect of alcohol once you take it. In the short term, you may start to have a short memory and lack coordination.

Long-term alcohol abuse can also cause damage to the cerebellum and cerebral cortex. If you notice any brain issues, you need a rehabilitation program quickly. Multiple Toronto alcohol rehab programs are available to help you get stimulated and get your brain back to normalcy.


Your digestive system plays a huge role in alcohol consumption. The pancreas is a part of the system that regulates blood sugar levels.

Functioning alcoholism means your pancreas is working overtime to digest the alcohol. In turn, it’ll have adverse effects on the pancreas.

Unfortunately, issues with the pancreas don’t have symptoms. As such, it worsens into a condition called pancreatitis.


The heart requires oxygen and other nutrients to function optimally. Heavy alcohol consumption makes the heart weak by restricting the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the heart.

In addition, alcohol increases triglyceride, a fat compound in the blood. This fat compound can lead to heart disease over time.

Increased Cancer Susceptibility

One of the deadly health risks of functioning alcoholism is exposure to cancer. Cancer is a fatal disease that affects almost every part of the body. Alcohol intake increases your susceptibility to cancer.

The different organs you’re risking cancer as you’re taking alcohol include;

  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Liver
  • Breast
  • Kidney

Cancer in any organ has no cure or treatment.

Psychological Effect

Taking alcohol in heavy amounts can lead to mental health problems and bipolar disorder. Some of the effects of the brain include;

  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of impulsive controls
  • Mood swings

The psychological effects of alcohol usually start with anxiety and depression.

increased cancer susceptibility

Digestion Struggles

Digestion is crucial to the optimal functioning of your body. Alcohol in high quantities can affect the digestion tract by affecting the tissues.

Once alcohol affects your digestive system, it’ll prevent your organs from getting the necessary nutrients from the meals you eat. The adverse effects of this defect include;

  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Worsened ulcer
  • Stomach gas

The digestive system also affects the circulatory system when it doesn’t get nutrients. It can lead to a situation known as anemia, a situation that occurs when you have a low red blood cell count.

When alcohol intake affects your red blood cells, you need to stop immediately and get treatment.

Damaged Nerves

Your nervous system is a functional part of your body. It’s one part of the body easily affected by alcohol.

The slurred speech noticed when you’re high on alcoholic beverages is a sign of damage to the nerves. The alcohol in your system has slowed down the communication between your system and your brain. In turn, your communication will be unclear, slow, and inaccurate.

The frontal lobe — a vital part of the nervous system gets bad due to heavy alcohol intake. This part of the brain is crucial for decision-making and social behaviour.

Blood Sugar Level and Alcohol Content

Most of the health risks of functional alcoholism depend on the concentration of alcohol in your blood. The higher the blood alcohol content, the more adverse effects of alcohol on your body.

Here are the ranges of blood alcohol content and the respective effects;

  • 033-0.12%: Increased activity and better moods
  • 09-0.25%: Memory loss and blurred vision
  • 25-0.40%: Amnesia, vomiting, and stints of unconsciousness.
  • 35-0.80%: Increased blood pressure and heart problems. In severe cases, it can lead to death.

In addition, alcohol affects organs like the pancreas and liver — which help break down glucose. You’ll experience a spike in blood sugar levels with these organs struggling to function.

The blood sugar levels could go very low or very high, depending on how the alcohol affects the liver and pancreas.

Sexual Health

Alcohol can contribute to bad reproductive health in both males and females. For women, it affects fertility and menstrual cycles.

Taking more than a drink of alcohol per day can worsen fertility issues. So, heavy drinking will reduce the possibility of pregnancy in women.

For men, heavy alcohol intake reduces interest in sexual activities by lowering the libido.

Related Article: Breaking the Cycle: Intervention Strategies for Functioning Alcoholics

sexual health

Toronto Rehab Programs for Functioning Alcoholism

Functioning alcoholics aren’t always aware of the health risks of their lifestyle. Even worse, the people closest to them don’t know about the condition.

An alcohol rehab program in Toronto can save a functioning alcoholic if the situation isn’t far gone. But the problem is the denial that comes with the habit. Most functioning alcoholics don’t accept that they have an alcohol problem.

At Addiction Rehab Toronto, we understand how functioning alcoholism works and will modify our alcohol treatment programs to fit your unique needs. Book an appointment with us to discuss our world-class alcohol addiction intervention strategies. Let’s get you the care you need before functioning alcoholism takes it toll on your health.

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