It is a major cause of cancer of the mouth, esophagus and larynx; liver cirrhosis and pancreatitis often result from long-term, excessive consumption.
There are a number of potential risks to both the mother and her unborn child when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy. Alcohol is a teratogen that can cause birth defects and related harm to fetal development. The range of harms associated with in utero exposure to alcohol is termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
Other potential harms include:
For more information on alcohol and pregnancy, see Alcohol and Women.
More common medical conditions—hypertension, gastritis, diabetes and some forms of stroke—as well as mental disorders such as depression are likely to be aggravated even by occasional and short-term alcohol consumption.
Automobile and pedestrian injuries, falls and work-related harm frequently result from excessive alcohol consumption. The risks related to alcohol are linked to the pattern of drinking and the amount of consumption. Therefore, the identification of drinkers with various types and degrees of at-risk alcohol consumption has great potential to reduce all types of alcohol-related harm.1 While persons with alcohol dependence are most likely to incur high levels of harm, the bulk of harm associated with alcohol occurs among people who are not dependent, if only because there are so many of them.
Problem drinking also affects the medical management of every chronic medical and mental health condition. Research has shown that many screened patients cut down on their drinking simply because they were asked about their alcohol use—and effective screening for problem drinking can be completed in as little as five minutes.2