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Alcoholic lung disease is disease of the lungs caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Chronic alcohol ingestion impairs multiple critical cellular functions in the lung. These cellular impairments lead to increased susceptibility to serious complications from lung disease. Recent research cites alcoholic lung disease as comparable to liver disease in alcohol related mortality.[1] Alcoholics have a higher risk of developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and experience higher rates of mortality from ARDS when compared to non-alcoholics.

The mechanisms of alcoholic lung disease are:

  • Metabolism of alcohol reduces glutathione anti-oxidant levels in the lungs.[2]
  • Oxidation damage to the cells impairs the ability of the lungs to remove fluid.
  • Oxidative damage to cells reduces immune response.
  • Oxidative damage to cells results in a reduced ability to recover from injury.

These chemical changes compound the negative mechanical and microbiological effects of alcoholism on the respiratory system. These include: impaired gag reflex and cilia function and greater likelihood of colonies of pneumococcal bacteria in the upper respiratory system.

Research on potential treatments for Alcoholic Lung Disease are ongoing.


  1. Corey D. Kershaw and David M. Guidot Alcoholic Lung Disease Alcohol Research and Health Volume 31, Number 1, 2008
  2. Pratibha C. Joshi and David M. Guidot "The alcoholic lung: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and potential therapies" American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology Jan 2007

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