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Here's What Happens If Your Alcohol Use Disorder Goes Untreated

By Michael LoRe
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Carol Anderson, LMSW, ACSW on January 20, 2021
Because you are drinking excessively, you are more likely to jeopardize your health and safety.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is compulsive alcohol consumption that goes beyond drinking in moderation. If left untreated, alcohol use disorder can have short-term and long-term effects on your health.

"Since alcohol use disorder is a progressive condition, it typically gets worse the longer it goes untreated," says Brian Wind, Ph.D., co-chair of the American Psychological Association. "People can suffer anything from minor, short-term consequences to severe, more complicated ones."

Short-term effects include:

  • Memory loss
  • Blackouts
  • Hangovers
  • Passing out

Long-term effects include:

  • Liver disease
  • Heart issues
  • Cancer
  • Brain damage
  • Permanent memory loss
  • High blood pressure

"Alcohol affects every organ in the body," says Dr. Alex Lee, a doctor in social work and licensed clinical social worker. "Left untreated, alcohol use disorder can lead to severe short- and long-term health consequences for the individual and his or her community. Alcohol use has been determined by the World Health Organization to be the causal factor for over 200 injury and disease conditions."

Not only does AUD affect your body and mental wellbeing, but it can lead to other issues including financial insecurity, job instability, and fracturing relationships with friends and family.

Because you are drinking excessively or are constantly drunk, you and others are put in riskier situations that may lead to harm including:

  • Car accidents
  • Suicide
  • Homicide
  • Drowning

Thankfully there are plenty of treatment options whether you consult your physician, join a support group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), enroll in a treatment/detox center or seek help from a counselor or therapist.

"The earlier an alcohol problem is treated, the easier it is to recover from all types of consequences — whether it is recovering from financial hardship to overcoming an alcohol-related illness," Dr. Wind says.

Treatment & Resources for Alcohol Addiction