Kate's Blog

10 Side Effects Alcohol Ads Should Warn You About

When I was in Florida last week I watched a bit of TV in the mornings as I got ready for the day.

I’d completely forgotten that in the US, pharmaceutical companies are allowed to advertise on telly.
I’m fascinated by these ads because a) they’re a bit strange and b) they’re not something I’m used to seeing. In the UK, prescription medication isn’t advertised on TV.
If you’re not familiar with these pharmaceutical ads, here’s how they tend to work:
First, the voiceover asks if a certain ailment has been holding you back. (Cue footage of sad people.)
Next, there’s an invitation to talk to your doctor about whatever the pill is. (Roll footage of happy people, playing tennis, running through fields etc.)
Finally – and this is the bit that always gets me – the voiceover calmly lists a string of potential side effects, which could be as mild as a dry mouth or as serious as sudden death.
Often, the side effects take up most of the advert! By the end of each ad, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would risk taking the medicine.
And this got me thinking…
What if alcohol companies had to list the side effects of drinking in their ads?
After all, alcohol is a drug too.
If we had to listen to a string of side effects at the end of every fancy booze ad, perhaps it’d make us stop and think.
So what kind of side effects would they need to mention? Well, that’s what this blog is all about. 

10 side effects alcohol ads should warn you about:

1 – Drinking alcohol may cause extreme sickness and dizziness. You may find it hard to control your body, see clearly, think properly, walk or sit up straight.
2 – Whilst using alcohol your mood may suddenly change. You may feel tearful, paranoid or have the urge to pick a fight for no reason. You may make choices you later regret.
3 – Drinking alcohol can lead to the loss of personal possessions, such as your phone, keys, purse, coat or favourite handbag.
4 – Alcohol use is not recommended for people wishing to lose weight, nor is it suitable for those who want to avoid premature ageing.
5 – If this drug has been recommended to you for stress relief purposes, please note that use of this drug may make the cause of your stress worse in the long run.
6 – Drinking increases your risk of at least 7 types of cancer. Long term alcohol use is also linked to infertility, diabetes, heart and liver disease.
7 – This drug may affect your ability to sleep peacefully. Some users have reported waking up in the early hours of the morning unable to return to deep sleep.
8 – Alcohol may interfere with the way your brain makes memories. During drinking episodes, you may struggle to recall what you said, where you went or what you posted on Facebook…
9 – As you withdraw from this drug, you may experience headaches, depression, anxiety, stomach pain, sickness and strong urges for greasy food and sugary products.
10 – After heavy drinking episodes, you may find it difficult to achieve basic daily tasks such as eating, working or interacting with other humans…

Can you imagine…

If alcohol was a pill prescribed to you by your doctor? What would be your reaction to these side effects?
I’m sure most of us would be back at the doctor’s office in no time! We’d be complaining that the side effects were too much.
When it comes to other drugs, we aren’t willing to tolerate much discomfort, so why do we treat alcohol so differently?

Let me know…

I bet there are tons more side effects you can think of that I’ve forgotten. What warnings would you add to this list?

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


58 Responses

  1. I agree with all of these. The side effect I would add is that alcohol will totally ruin your attempts at getting fit! When I was drinking I did work out, but I was so half hearted, I hardly made any progress with my sprint times. Since I quit (2 months now) I’ve noticed a big improvement in my running and Im lifting heavier too!

    1. Wow, that’s a brilliant benefit to stopping! Congratulations on your 2 months Sally, wishing you lots of success with your fitness goals and AF lifestyle 🙂

  2. Warning, alcohol may seriously affect your marriage! I would love them to write THAT on a bottle of wine, ha ha. I’m coming up on 1 year sober and my hubby and I have never been closer. I always thought alcohol was the glue holding our marriage together. Turns out it was doing the exact opposite.

  3. I too agree with all Of the above. For me alcohol gave me terrible sinus congestion due to the high levels of histamine in alcoholic drinks. After giving up alcohol I was able to stop using steroid nasal sprays!

    1. Wow – that is something I would never have thought of. Just goes to show, drinking really does affect every area of your life!

    2. .same, was horrible, The next morning I would be so congested felt like I had terrible headcold, even my eyes were sore ugh!!!

  4. I would make 9 stronger – include visual and aural hallucinations ; heart and organ failure; shaking; fits; sudden death – all caused by withdrawal

    1. That’s a great point. To be honest, I could’ve included 10 extra points on the health dangers alone – there’s so much at risk when we drink.

  5. So good and so true! Here’s a few more ideas to add to the list:
    1. Note alcohol is highly addictive- causing many to lose marriages, jobs, health, homes and finances.
    2. It can cause sudden car accidents, DUI’s, jail and death.
    3. It causes memory loss and increases your risk for dementia.
    4. It is so hepatoxic, that your body cannot detox from other toxins until it clears the alcohol.
    5. Drinking even small amounts daily will cause you to be fatter, stupider, and less happy and productive.
    6. Drinking daily dramatically increases onsets of diabetes, insulin resistance, and painful neuropathy.
    7. Drinking any amount of alcohol increases depression and anxiety.
    8. Drinking alcohol increases your risk for suicide.

  6. These ares great, but I would also add that alcohol can cause deafness, blindness and early onset of Alzheimer’s.
    Also, a warning not to drive or operate machinery.

  7. The physical and emotional side effects are spot on. It’s amazing that alcohol has such a strong handle on some of us. I don’t want anything controlling me like that again.

  8. “Drinking may eventually lead to you losing everything you care about: your looks, intelligence, dignity, romantic relationships, financial stability and possibly your life.”
    Great post Kate!! Thought-provoking and so true!!

  9. These are all great and so true. I’m in the U.S. The alcohol commercials now as we near the holidays are ALL very seductive. Implying if you drink what’s advertised, you’ll get THAT guy, or THAT girl. They scream the promise of good times and great sex. I think it would be so funny after the commercial ends, to have these side effects broadcasted in that typical serious doctor voice they use on the pill commercials. LOL. Great post. I’m cutting and pasting these into my “alcohol fighting toolbox”.

    1. Alcohol is incredibly romanticised and normalised, especially at this time of year. Put these side effects in your toolbox Debbie – I hope you enjoy an alcohol free holiday season!

  10. Note that alcohol may cause you to have puffy eyes and an unsettled bloated stomach for several days after use. You also may not have any recollection of what you did whilst taking alcohol.
    Reading all this really makes you wonder how on earth we ever get caught up in it!

  11. This is such an awesome and totally engaging post, Kate. The warnings at the end of the pharmaceutical commercials are crazy! You linking alcohol to the commercials made me *actually* listen about the risks that come from drinking. Today is day 1 for me, btw. Thanks again for this post of yours. I can tell you really put some good effort into writing it. This is my favorite post of yours outside of your blog from years back. Bravo.

  12. love this post!! so very true. I would also add that daily use can cause your bank account the dwindle at an alarming rate!

  13. Wow – why would anyone want to pick up a drink after all this? I have 9 months alcohol free. I still have lots of emotional and mental issues – and my husband and I are not any better – but I am sober – and taking care of myself. Thanks!

  14. This is brilliant! I love your blog. You have been such an inspiration to me and I am now 18 months free of alcohol. Thank you for your daily inspiration, making me laugh and helping me feel less alone in all this!

  15. Adding to #1 may cause serious injury. I broke my ankle in 3 places while drunk falling off a curb in high heels. Surgery with a plate and 10 screws, 8 weeks out of work, physical therapy, serious depression and despair for over a year and then a second surgery to have the hardware removed. One night of drinking changed my life forever. My leg will never be the same.

  16. How brilliant to draw a connection to the effects of alcohol on a the body and mind as how prescription drugs have side effects .
    I will think again before using the drug called alcohol.
    As we have heard before the reason someone becomes intoxicated is because alcohol is a toxic substance with toxic effects on a he body
    Thanks for great analogy
    I will keep this one in my tool box

  17. This is a great post. I barely drink these days but when I see a post like this, I really question why I still romanticise alcohol for big ‘celebrations’ and special nights out. It just makes no sense!

    1. It’s so easy to slip into the habit of romanticising alcohol – it’s good to stop and really think about this. Who’d want to ruin a special occasion with a drug like this?

  18. Warning.. alcohol side affects can make you the most selfish dishonesties manipulative person. Stealing your conscience also it can trap you with a compulsion to want more and more!! Takes your looks away and your soul x

  19. I can’t believe I’ve never thought of alcohol like this before. It is romanticized so often that it’s hard to remember it’s such a potent thing with so many side effects. I have literally stopped taking prescription medication before, based on one or two of the side effects that didn’t agree with me – yet CONSTANTLY drown my poor body in side effects each and every weekend without thinking twice because alcohol is “fun”. It’s “social”. It’s “relaxing”. Yet it’s all those negatives too. Wow – just wow! This one really hit home. Day 3 after recently doing 100 days AF and wondering why the hell I ever started again. This article will help get me back on track for sure. Just what I needed to read. x

  20. “WARNING: Alcohol use may cause sexual underperformance and/or dysfunction. Common side effects include blotchiness and redness of facial skin, puffiness of eyes and face, frequent urination followed by dehydration, and foul breath. May induce a state of brain-fog impairing memory, reasoning, and rational decision-making. Regular alcohol users report brains becoming stuck in a constant feedback loop of needing/regretting, followed by downward spirals of shame.”

  21. It really is an eye opener when you compare alcohol in this way…I would add the following:-
    Alcohol may cause reduced inhibitions resulting in bouts of anti social behaviour or behaviour which is out of character which you may later regret and which may in some cases compromise your personal safety.
    In extreme cases alcohol can be hallucinogenic.
    Alcohol is a depressant and may contribute to low self esteem and lack of motivation.

  22. Alcohol can cause broken capillaries and reddening/blotchiness/bloating of your face.
    Blackouts where you act insane and make a fool of yourself.
    Weight gain because your liver is key in fat burning and it can’t do that when it is dealing with a toxin.
    Alcohol is especially good at that bloated, unhealthy-looking type of weight gain.
    Increase in risk of breast cancer.
    Breath that can pretty much knock people out.
    A dull, sad, hopeless look in your eyes as it batters your mind, body, and spirit and you struggle to hide it from others.

  23. Alcohol is that addictive, whilst “coming down” from a hangover…. your planning the next session to “get back on the level”

  24. I didn’t read every comment so if this is a repeat, my apologies. One side effect I thought of is rape, STDs, violence etc from sleeping with random people because of lowered inhibitions. Very poor judgement can result in doing things that we normally would not do when sober. I am NOT saying that anyone deserves to get raped etc because they had too much to drink, BUT it DOES HAPPEN! In part, because we have less control over situations when loaded due to excess alcohol consumption and make VERY poor choices. I lived this at one point in my life so I can speak the truth to my own experience.

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