Why does Alcohol Make You Drunk?

Most of us have experienced the moment when you realize that you have went from "just one quick drink" at happy hour to a massive hang over in the making. Perhaps it was seeing the cute guy from accounting at the bar or needing a little extra liquid courage to get out on the dance floor with your old college friends. Either way, there has been a shift in the night and you are beyond a slight buzz. It forces the question of how and why alcohol would make you drunk.

Why does Alcohol Make You Drunk?

The short answer is the main ingredient in alcohol: ethanol. Because ethanol is water soluble, it can move easily throughout your body. As alcohol enters your digestive system, it passes through cell membranes and the heart via the bloodstream. It takes the most impact on the brain where it acts as a depressant on the central nervous system. As the ethanol passes through the brain, it will link up with nerve receptors.

When it binds to the glutamate receptors, the brain becomes slower to respond to stimulus. This happens specifically when ethanol attaches to glutamate, which is a neurotransmitter that ignites neurons into action. Ethanol will prevent glutamate from sparking so the brain becomes slower to respond. It also binds to gamma aminobutyric acids (GABA). When bound together, these acids will ignite but cause the opposite feeling of being drowsy. And the level of how drunk you are depends on various facts such as gender, weight, and age.

Signs of drunkenness include:

  • Having a hard time following conversation
  • Laughing easily
  • Blurred version
  • Difficulty walking

What Happens to the Human Body When Drinking?

Why does alcohol make you drunk? The ethanol in it can slow your brain down by reacting with nerve receptors. Besides making your drunk, drinking alcohol would also bring other effects to your body.

Frequent Urination

The myth of "breaking the seal," meaning that once you go to the bathroom the first time after drinking, you will need to go repeatedly throughout the night, is not really accurate. It is not the actual act of urination occurring once that causes you to have to go frequently throughout the night. It really is a result of the liver working overtime to process alcohol out of the body as quickly as possible. When alcohol is in the body, it blocks the hormone vasopressin that acts as an antidiuretic. In turn, the body will feel like it needs to excrete more liquid than it is taking in by urinating, which ultimately results in being dehydrated and hung over.

High Drive, Low Performance

Alcohol can also impact the frontal lobe which makes you push your inhibitions aside and stimulate your sex drive. The term "beer googles" refers to you finding someone more attractive around closing time when you have been drinking all evening than you would the next morning in the light of day. This is not just due to the low lighting and neon glow of a bar sign. It is actually a biological reaction.

But, even though a stronger urge may exist, your performance will suffer. Alcohol will make it more difficult for erections to occur and it will be harder for both partners to have an organism. In addition, the female body will have a harder time producing the lubrication needed for an enjoyable experience.

Basic Facts on Alcohol in Body

Yes, yes, we all know something about alcohol, but do you know "why does alcohol make you drunk?" What about other facts on alcohol such as BAC?

What does Alcohol in the Bloodstream Do to the Human Body?

Once alcohol has passed through the body via the blood stream, it will stop in the liver where it will finally begin to be metabolized. In the liver, it will be broken down into carbon dioxide, water, and energy. Carbon dioxide ultimately winds up in the lungs to be expelled, which is why using a Breathalyzer is an accurate way to read an individual's blood alcohol content.

Water will move into the kidneys to be expelled through urine. The chemical make-up of alcohol will impact the body's ability to judge how much urine should be created. This can ultimately cause someone to become extremely dehydrated.

What Are People Referring to When They Say BAC?

BAC (or Blood Alcohol Concentration) is the percentage of alcohol existing in the bloodstream by 100 millimeters. The higher the percentage, the more intoxicated a person is and it can reach a point of being deadly. The legal limit used for drunk driving in most states is .8 which means that .8 of one percent of the fluid in blood is alcohol.

How does BAC Increase?

Blood Alcohol Content increases when you drink more alcohol than your body can process. Most individuals can metabolize one drink an hour (i.e. one 12 once beer, one glass of wine or one shot of alcohol). It is important to realize that every individual’s metabolism is different so this can vary from person to person. For example, men normally metabolize alcohol faster than women and as we get older, our ability to process alcohol slows.

The only way to lower your BAC though is time and to stop drinking. The amount of time it takes will depend on weight, age, and gender. Because there are so many factors, the best bet is to have a designated driver planned ahead of time just to make sure that you are safe. Especially since we already know your inhibitions will be impaired and you may feel sober enough to drive. If someone of normal weight and health drinks six beers in an hour, it will take about six hours for alcohol to no longer be in the blood stream.

Related reading: How long does alcohol stay in your system?

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