People all over the world enjoy drinking alcohol because of the pleasant “buzzed” feeling it causes. However, the science behind that buzzed feeling is not well-known.
Most people understand that if they drink the right amount of an alcoholic beverage, they will get drunk. The more they drink in a short period of time, the more drunk they will become. In addition to the buzzed feeling, someone may experience lowered inhibitions, may begin to slur his or her words and may become less coordinated. In extreme circumstances, he or she may even pass out, but what causes these effects?
What happens to alcohol in the body?
As you consume alcohol, it can be absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine. If you ate a meal before drinking, the alcohol will not be able to move to the small intestine as quickly, which can slow down the alcohol absorption.
Once absorbed, the alcohol travels to your liver, which converts it into other chemicals to help your body get rid of it. Alcohol dehydrogenase is an enzyme in the liver that converts alcohol into acetaldehyde. Your body converts that into acetic acid, which is essentially vinegar. Then, your body breaks it down again, turning it into fatty acids, carbon dioxide and water.
How does this cause someone to feel drunk?
Although the body can break alcohol down, it takes time for it to do so. The exact amount of time may depend on your age, weight, sex, food consumption and other factors. If you drink too much alcohol for your situation, your body may not be able to keep up. When this occurs, the bloodstream transports the alcohol throughout the body.
When alcohol reaches your brain, it causes dopamine to release, which can cause you to feel happy. It also binds to glutamate, a neurotransmitter, which makes you respond slower to stimuli.
Alcohol also bonds to gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), another neurotransmitter, which can cause a variety of effects. This bond can cause you to feel calm and drowsy. It can reduce executive function, impacting your judgment and decision making. It also causes your inhibitions to lower and your motor skills to be less coordinated.
The effects of alcohol can be dangerous in some circumstances
If you are out with friends and drinking responsibly, the effects of alcohol can be fun. However, these effects can be extremely dangerous if you try to drive a vehicle.
If your judgment or decision-making abilities are impaired, you may speed or try to take a turn too fast. If your coordination is impaired, you could weave within your lane or swerve off the road. If your ability to respond to stimuli is impaired, you could rear end the car in front of you or even hit a pedestrian.
Because alcohol can be so dangerous for drivers, the penalties for drunk driving can be severe. However, many factors can affect your level of impairment and the legal ability someone has to accuse you of driving drunk. If someone accuses you of drunk driving, it may be worth it to explore your options for pursuing the best possible outcomes in court.