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Middlesex-London Health Unit

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Drinking Alcohol – Short and Long Term Risks

Even though many people drink alcohol at a lower-risk level – others don’t. Binge drinking (4 or more on one occasion for women and 5 or more for men) is the most harmful to your health. 1  Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink to reduce your risk of alcohol related problems.

  • Alcohol Warning Signs – PosterAlcohol Warning Signs – Poster (PDF 286KB)
    View, download and print the Middlesex-London Health Unit’s Alcohol Warning Signs poster. Know the facts. Reduce your risk.

Short Term Health Risks 12

Alcohol use, especially binge drinking, has immediate effects that increase the risk of harm including:

  • Violence

    Fights, intimate partner violence, and child abuse.
  • Risky sexual behaviors

    Unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, and increased risk of sexual assault. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections. 
  • Alcohol poisoning 

    A medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels that can cause passing out, low blood pressure, low body temperature, coma, problems breathing, or even death.
  • Unintentional injuries

    Traffic injuries (drinking and driving), falls, drowning, burns, and unintentional firearm injuries.

Long Term Health Risks 1, 23

Over time, alcohol use can lead to the development of many physical, emotional, mental, and social problems including:

  • Heart problems

    Heart attack, heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Cancer

    Cancers of the head & neck, liver, colon, and breast. In general, the risk of cancer rises with increasing intake of alcohol.  If you drink & smoke cigarettes, the risk of developing certain cancers is even greater.
  • Mental health problems

    Alcohol dependence, depression, anxiety, and suicide.
  • Social problems

    Unemployment, financial crisis, and family/friend problems.
  • Stroke

  • Liver disease

  • Stomach problems

Find out more information on How You Can Reduce Your Alcohol Risks.

Date of creation: January 1, 2013
Last modified on: November 22, 2022




1Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. (2023). Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health: Final Report. Retrieved from Retrieved from
2Government of Canada. (2021). Health risks of alcohol. Retrieved from
3Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (n.d.). Alcohol and chronic health problems. Retrieved from