12 Ways Drinking Is Secretly Sabotaging Your Life

A hangover is the least of your problems.

Heavy drinking doesn't just make your head hurt the morning after—it can have some dire effects on your physical, professional, social, and financial well-being down the road. So, before you down those five tequila shots tonight, consider the ways alcohol can sabotage your life if you overdo it—which means binge drinking, or drinking four or more drinks in a couple of hours, multiple times per week:

1. It can prevent you from getting over an ex. 
An interesting but totally unfair fact: Women are 43 percent more likely than men to drunk-dial an ex, according to a survey of 5,249 Americans who drink, conducted by Blowfish for Hangovers. Any time you spend booty-calling people from your past is time you could be spending moving forward.

2. It can piss off your boss. 
The same Blowfish for Hangovers survey found that 25 percent of workers have shown up late to their jobs because of a hangover—a perfect recipe for getting on your boss's bad side. Even worse: 20 percent of people have skipped work entirely to recover from a crazy night of drinking. Either way, your headache won't help you get ahead.

3. It can ruin your gym resolve. 
While research suggests you're more likely to work out on days when you drink, the same can't be said for the day after drinking: Half of women who participated in the Blowfish survey have skipped a workout to nurse a hangover.

4. It can make you more likely to smoke cigarettes. 
People crave nicotine more when they drink because booze enhances the rewarding effects of nicotine, according to a study published in the journalNicotine and Tobacco Research. PSA for people who "only" smoke when they drink: Lots of drinking can amount to lots of cigarettes and turn you into a full-blown smoker.

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5. It can eradicate the benefits of healthy eating. 
Alcohol is a major cause of nutritional deficiencies—and it's not because lushes drink their calories. Booze actually makes it harder for the body to absorb essential nutrients (namely vitamin B6, thiamine, and folic acid). So when you drink a ton, all the healthy food you eat goes down the drain, which can ultimately cause anemia and nervous system problems.

6. It can literally shrink your brain. 
Long-term heavy drinking shrivels up your brain cells and reduces the size of your noggin. If that thought alone doesn't terrify you, the effects of drinking probably will: It could hamper your ability to regulate body temperature (which has been linked to an increased risk of obesity); make you less coordinated when you're sober; and affect your sleep, mood, learning, and memory. Abstinence may reverse the damage—but only partially, according to a report compiled by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

7. It really could destroy your liver. 
It's the liver's job to break down all the alcohol you drink. In doing so, the organ creates toxic byproducts that hinder the liver's ability to function (and coincidentally, may contribute to various cancers). The process can also cause fat buildup, bleeding, and excessive scar tissue.

When your liver takes too much of a beating from a single bender or prolonged heavy drinking, the organ eventually stops filtering toxins from the blood. So they skirt off to your brain, where they can disturb your sleep, change your personality, mess with your mood, trigger anxiety and depression, shorten your attention span, and give you hand tremors—if you're lucky. If you're not, you're looking at potential coma and the ultimate buzz kill: death, according to the NIAAA. (Because genes and diet can affect your susceptibility, these symptoms of liver disease only strike about 1 of 4 or 5 heavy drinkers.)

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8. It could give you high blood pressure. 
Booze triggers the release of stress hormones that contract and stiffen blood vessels. This boosts your blood pressure and, if left untreated, can damage your arteries, heart, and other organs, according to the NIAAA.

9. It could suck up your savings. 
A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report estimates that Americans spend about 1 percent of their earnings on alcohol. If that estimate (about $1 per hundred dollars you earn) pales in comparison to your last bar tab, your drinking habits may be damaging your bottom line more than you think.

10. It could lead you to choose a dumb partner. 
Men who drink a lot tend to have lower IQs, according to a study involving over 49,000 men, which was recently published in the journalAlcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Researchers don't know whether alcohol makes guys less sharp or whether stupid people make stupid decisions involving alcohol (like ordering a night cap on top of a solid buzz). Either way, if you drink a lot and surround yourself with guys who do too, you're even more likely to meet (and hook up with) a dumb guy while you're drunk.

11. It can weaken your immune system. 
You're more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections for up to 24 hours after getting drunk, according to the NIAAA. But it's not just about catching the flu: Chronic alcohol abuse actually suppresses your cells' ability to attack tumor cells, which heightens your risk of cancer.

12. It can ruin your smile. 
Even delicious drinks can wreak havoc on your mouth: Alcoholics are more susceptible to oral cancers, cavities, tooth loss, and gingivitis, according to a 2013 review in which experts blame poor nutrition, compromised immunity, and the alcohol itself.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.

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