There are so many ways how alcoholism can kill you, and not just can it lead to premature death, but excessive drinking can significantly diminish your quality of life as well.

An Overview of How Alcoholism Can Kill You

In general, when you abuse alcohol, particularly over the long term it can impact every part of your body and every system including your heart. When you binge drink, it can lead to problems ranging from high blood pressure to heart failure.

Alcohol can raise your risk of cancer, it makes it difficult your brain to create new cells, it’s related to liver problems and failure, and alcoholism has been linked to poorer outcomes following surgery. It can result in brain damage, and people may also die because of mixing alcohol with prescription drugs.

There is the potential for alcohol to damage every organ in your body, and since it’s directly absorbed into your bloodstream, it can increase your risk of so many life-threatening and chronic diseases.

When you drink excessively, it lowers your inhibitions so that you may engage in risky behaviors, and if you binge drink large amounts in a short window of time, it can lead to alcohol poisoning which can result in coma or death.

The effects of alcoholism are so varied and far-reaching that there are seemingly endless ways alcoholism can kill you. We’ll focus on some of the most common, although there are many others.

Liver Disease

One of the most common ways how alcoholism can kill you related to the liver. Your liver is responsible for metabolizing and filtering out the toxins of alcohol, which is why it’s so heavily impacted by alcoholism.

There are three primary types of liver diseases associated with alcoholism, and these are also the biggest causes of death among alcoholic.

The first is fatty liver disease, and with this one, the person often experiences no symptoms. If someone stops drinking, fatty liver disease will usually heal itself, but if not, it will usually move on to more deadly types of liver disease.

Alcoholic hepatitis refers to liver inflammation, and it’s common for heavy drinkers and alcoholics. It can be a progressive disease, and symptoms include vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, stomach pain and jaundice. If it’s not treated, it can result in death.

Finally, the most serious and deadly liver disease associated with alcoholism is cirrhosis. With cirrhosis, the normal liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue. It takes around ten years before this starts to occur in most people, and it impacts anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of long-term, heavy drinkers. The damage caused by cirrhosis isn’t reversible, and it’s one of the primary ways how alcoholism can kill you.


Another one of the many ways alcoholism can kill you is because of the increased risk it creates for developing many of the most deadly types of cancers.

Some of the cancers associated with alcohol use and alcoholism include:

  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Breast
  • Liver
  • Colon
  • Rectum
  • Voice box
  • Esophagus
  • Pancreas

Alcohol has been cited as a high-risk factor for all of these, and in some, it’s not just alcoholism that can increase the risk, but even just having a few drinks a week.

Drunk Driving Accidents

Along with increasing your chances of liver diseases and serious cancers, another way how alcoholism can kill you is through accidents including motor vehicle crashes.

In 2015, there were more than 10,000 people who died because of crashes related to alcohol impairment. That was 1/3 of all U.S. deaths related to traffic accidents.

Heart Disease

In general heart disease is one of the top killers of Americans, but alcoholism can up the chances of dying from diseases and complications related to the heart. For example, the more you drink, the more likely you are to be obese and have high blood pressure.

Excessive drinking and alcoholism can lead to raising of triglycerides in the blood which are harmful fats, and it can lead to consuming too many calories, having high blood pressure and heart failure. It can also lead to stroke, sudden cardiac death, cardiac arrhythmia, and cardiomyopathy.

End Stage Alcoholism

When looking at how alcoholism can kill you, understanding end stage alcoholism is also important. Most medical professionals classify alcoholism as a progressive, chronic disease, meaning it gets worse over time.

Once you’ve entered end or late-stage alcoholism, your body starts to deteriorate quickly. Your cells start losing the ability to regenerate and heal themselves as they’re meant to, and your liver starts to have trouble supplying nutrients to the rest of your body.

There can be intense deficiencies leading to complications of the central nervous system, and some of the conditions related to end stage alcoholism include not just the ones named above but also chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia.

However, even if you are at the end stage of alcoholism, there are ways to recover and also heal your body, at least somewhat, but seeking help is absolutely essential unless you want to end up as a worst case scenario.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.