While a lot of people drink alcohol, and everyone knows of the effects alcohol has on an individual, very few people know why and how does it get one drunk. The answer is, through a chemical process. As a person drinks, the alcohol passes into their bloodstream. The intoxicating part of alchohol is the ethanol, whose molecules are so small that they can actually pass into the gaps between the brain cells. There, the ethanol interferes with the neurotransmitters that enable all the brain’s activity. Alcohol is metabolized at the rate of 0.25 ounces per hour. Therefore, when people drink more than their body can metabolize, they get intoxicated.
How Does Ethanol Affect the Body?
Because ethanol molecules are tiny compared to the atoms in the body, it is very easy for the ethanol to flow freely throughout the body without any restrictions. Ethanol molecules are also water soluble, and this is what allows the body to soak up ethanol or alcohol through the skin.
So how does ethanol break down and metabolize in the body? It is important to remember here that alcohol is a toxin, and the body is effectively trying to get rid of it. One of the ways is by urinating. However, when an individual has been binge drinking, they body can’t keep up with the amount of alcohol, and even if the individual goes to the bathroom frequently, they still remain drunk. Another way for the body to discard the ethanol/alcohol is through the pores in skin. This is why individuals can still smell of alcohol even if it’s not on their breath.
Classic Signs of Intoxication
Alcohol gives warning signs as it penetrates into the brain and central nervous system, so the individual can stop or moderate their drinking if desired. These signs are:
- Feeling giddy
- Starting to lose the thread of what they’re saying
- Feeling unsteady on their feet
- Seeing double
Cases of severe drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, coma or even death. The individual’s reactions slow down and they become uncoordinated. Their speech starts to slur. Because alcohol is a depressant, the individual may start becoming emotional or aggressive. Judgement is impaired and the individual may do things outside of their comfort zone, which can be dangerous.
It goes without saying that consuming large amounts of alcohol is dangerous. About 20% of accidental deaths are alcohol related. Chronic drinking can affect organs of the body. As a matter of fact, alcohol causes more deaths and trauma in the United States than all other illegal drugs combined.
Sustain Recovery is a support system for individuals with addiction. It is a place of safety and community to come and get away for a time and focus on recovery. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction we are here to help you cope in a positive, empowering way.