What are the Risks?

Risky drinking is the leading risk factor for serious injury in the US and the third leading cause of preventable death.

You may have heard that light to moderate drinking can be good for the heart. However, with heavy drinking – including binge drinking – any potential benefits are outweighed by greater risks.


Drinking too much increases your chances of being injured or even killed. For example, it is estimated that alcohol is a factor in:

  • 60% of fatal burn injuries, drownings, and homicides
  • 50% of severe trauma injuries and sexual assaults
  • 40% of fatal motor vehicle crashes, suicides, fire deaths and fatal falls

Health problems

  • Heavy drinkers have a greater risk of liver disease, heart disease, stroke, bleeding from the stomach, sexually transmitted infections from unsafe sex, and several types of cancer.
  • They also have greater difficulty managing their weight, diabetes, blood pressure, and other conditions.

Poor performance

  • Alcohol increases the number of times you awaken in the later half of the night, preventing REM sleep and contributing to daytime fatigue.
  • Alcohol is a common factor in poor sexual performance.
  • The introduction of alcohol to a developing teenage brain can lead to permanently-reduced brain function.
  • Occupational risks include workplace accident and injury, suspension and termination.

Personal problems

  • Excessive use of alcohol contributes to financial and legal difficulties, divorce and child custody issues, unwanted pregnancy, and loss of employment.
  • The incidence of aggression and violent crime is higher among people who drink heavily.

Harming children

  • Drinking during pregnancy can cause brain damage and other serious problems in the baby.
  • Child abuse and neglect resulting from an impaired parent is a leading cause of children being removed from the home.
  • Parental drinking behavior can decisively shape a child’s view of alcohol use, even at the earliest ages. Genetic factors aside, children who grow up in environments where alcohol is a problem are more likely to develop a problem with alcohol in life.

Alcohol use disorders

  • Generally known as alcoholism and alcohol abuse, alcohol use disorders are medical conditions that doctors can diagnose when a patient's drinking causes severe distress or harm. In the United States, about 18 million people have an alcohol use disorder.