“Alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities may produce all the effects of drunkenness.” -Oscar Wilde
Ethanol, a very tiny molecule, causes that feeling of being drunk. It is colorless, clear, and produced through the process of fermentation. But how can this small thing cause such a profound effect on our bodies? And where does it get its “superpower” to do so? Aside from the pronounced effects of the molecule, ethanol takes advantage of its size to sneak between membranes and barriers for fast action, something that bigger molecules don’t have the luxury to do.
The journey of our little friend
When you drink alcohol, ethanol makes its way from the stomach to the small intestine, where it is absorbed into the blood. The blood then carries it to the organs like the liver and the brain. The liver is responsible for the breakdown of this molecule, but the feeling of drunkenness takes place in the brain, where alcohol leads to behavioral, emotional, and cognitive effects.
Effects of drunkenness
Alcohol is a depressant that slows brain responses. But when you first consume it, the feelings and effects you get are stimulating. Due to its size and the fact that alcohol can easily cross the blood-brain barrier due to it being soluble in fat and water, it has a profound impact on the brain.
Playing around with neurotransmitters, alcohol makes the body feel relaxed and sleepy, and finally, we arrive at a stage where brain activity is completely impeded.
Dopamine and serotonin releases give drinkers a feeling of pleasure, happiness, and confidence, making them less inhibited and social. There’s a reason why dopamine and serotonin are the body’s ‘feel-good’ hormones. Endorphins, on the other hand, calm the body down, making us euphoric and relaxed.
After the euphoria and excitement, the depressant phase begins, where brain processes are impacted significantly. During this stage, symptoms such as blurred vision, dizziness, loss of coordination, and slurred speech are experienced.
While this is happening, the liver is working hard to eliminate this substance from our bodies, and when significant quantities have been broken down, the effects die down.
Due to these effects on cognition and the overall state, it is advised that drinkers don’t drive or carry out any mentally demanding activity, especially when there is a threat of harm to oneself or those around. It is also helpful to ask someone to take you home instead of you walking all the way to make sure you arrive safely.
The effects of alcohol on different people
Everyone is different, and these differences are sufficient to cause varying amounts of drunkenness in different people. Men and women, for instance, will have different alcohol concentrations in their blood because women have a higher fat percentage, meaning less blood. Fat does not require as much blood as muscles do. Less blood means you feel stronger and faster effects of alcohol.
Genetic differences are also important. Some people’s livers can process alcohol faster than others. Regular drinkers have more enzymes in their livers that break down alcohol, leading to tolerance. But long-term drinking is harmful because your liver can get damaged. Genes can also contribute to alcohol addictions in some people.
Factors that increase drunkenness
what we do right before or while drinking also has a significant impact on how drunk we get. For instance, drinking on an empty stomach leads to you feeling tipsy quicker and more easily as opposed to when you drink on a full stomach. This is because when there is food in the stomach, the pyloric sphincter, a muscle separating the contents of the stomach from the small intestine, closes. Thus whatever alcohol you consume will stay in the stomach longer, where the stomach acid will break some of it down. While some alcohol is still absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream, far more is absorbed from the small intestine.
In addition, the fizzier the alcoholic beverage, the faster it will be absorbed. Drinks like soda mixes and champagne are easier to absorb than more concentrated drinks like gin and vodka. If you couple a fizzy alcoholic drink with drinking on an empty stomach, then the rate of absorption will increase further.
Chugging an alcoholic drink rather than drinking it slowly raises blood alcohol concentrations faster than its breakdown, which will make you feel drunker. This is because chugging introduces more alcohol in the blood than can be eliminated by the liver.
The annoying effects of drinking
Along with the positives, drinking alcohol also has negative effects. Some of these include:
- The need to urinate more frequently
- Having an alcoholic breath
- The risk of alcohol overdose
- The need to vomit
- The likeliness of passing out
- The possibility of dehydration
- The bad hangover the next morning
How to avoid passing out
No matter the kind of social gathering you are at or how much fun you are having, you should always keep the amount of alcohol you consume under control. In addition, you should know how your body reacts to alcohol and what is the upper limit that you can safely drink before the bad effects start to take over. If you have a habit of drinking every day, then try to limit yourself to one of two standard drinks per day. This self-control will allow you to feel the positive effects of alcohol and avoid its negative effects. You will also have a richer experience with your friends as you will be able to indulge in inspiring conversations and wear your dancing shoes to twirl to your favorite tunes.
Drinking is fun when you are out with friends, and its effects are pleasant, but remember that your liver takes time to process alcohol. The more or, the quicker you drink, the more your drinking outpaces your body’s processing abilities and the longer the alcohol will stay in your system. Too much can lead to poisoning and overdose.
I am a passionate beer connoisseur with a deep appreciation for the art and science of brewing. With years of experience tasting and evaluating various beers, I love to share my opinions and insights with others and I am always eager to engage in lively discussions about my favorite beverage.