Few drinks are more controversial than alcohol. While heavy drinking has been linked to health problems, some also point out potential benefits when consumed in moderation. Mayo Clinic says these pluses aren’t definite, but it’s possible moderate consumption may reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and ischemic stroke. Regardless of what side you fall on, one thing that’s certain is excessive drinking on any given night leads to intoxication. When this happens, you’ll feel and act differently. Here’s what’s actually happening to your body when you get drunk.
You start to slow down
Once alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream, it travels through your body and interrupts normal functions, causing a series of reactions. When it comes to the brain, alcohol has the ability to impede the way you think, behave, and react. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one of the main reasons these changes occur is due to the effect alcohol has on the neurotransmitters in the brain. These chemical substances are responsible for communication between neurons. Neurogistics mentions neurons are responsible for vital processes such as breathing, heartbeat, and digestion. When neurotransmitters are slowed down due to substances like alcohol, your organs and reactions slow down as well.
Things get a little fuzzy
When messages don’t travel at the same speed between neurons, your body doesn’t process what functions to carry out as quickly as it normally would. According to Dartmouth College, this includes memory, judgment, emotion, and vision. That’s why it’s common to forget things when you’ve consumed too much alcohol, and for mood to change so quickly. Damage to the cerebral cortex is also the reason why the more alcohol you drink, the greater of an effect it will have on your ability to “black out.”
You start to stumble
Located at the back of your head where the brain meets the spinal cord, the cerebellum is responsible for all of your motor functions. The University of Puget Sound says this includes your reflexes, balance, and coordination. That’s why people tend to stumble and lose their footing when they’re drunk. It’s also why your reflexes slow down, decreasing your reaction timing. Combined with impaired vision from alcohol’s effect on the cerebral cortex, it’s no wonder getting around while sloshed is so hard.
You get the munchies
A professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro tells Popular Science drinking alcohol increases your brain’s production of galanin, a type of neurotransmitter than increases your appetite for fatty foods. Since alcohol disrupts proper brain function when you’ve had too much, you’re more likely to give in to temptation for unhealthy foods. And once you eat these fatty foods, that causes a chain reaction by producing even more galanin. This explains why a juicy burger always seems like a great idea at the end of the night, and why a greasy breakfast the next day is so appealing.
Your skin suffers
If you notice your skin doesn’t look so great in the morning, you can point your finger at the greasy food, or you could just blame it all on the alcohol. AOL notes your skin gets extremely dry after drinking because alcohol interferes with the production of a hormone called vasopressin. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, this hormone helps balance fluid levels. Since the production of vasopressin production slows when you consume alcohol, your kidneys release water, explaining why you always feel like you have to go to the bathroom. Eventually, this causes dehydration and dull skin.
Your liver works overtime
You know too much alcohol is bad for your liver, but do you know why? Located above the stomach and right below the diaphragm, the liver is the second largest organ in the body, and it plays a major role in metabolism. It’s also responsible for changing harmful substances you consume into non-toxic ones that won’t cause damage, or releasing them from your system. However, during this process, the body creates a chemical compound called acetaldehyde. The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services says your liver turns the compound into an acid, which can enter your bloodstream. This is what causes feelings of nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and those other unwanted side effects in the morning.
You can do lasting damage
Although liver disease is something that develops over time, getting drunk often can contribute. According to the American Liver Foundation, there are three types of liver conditions you can get from drinking too much alcohol: alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic cirrhosis. While the first two are reversible, cirrhosis is not. It results in severe scarring and altered structure of the liver, which inhibits it from functioning normally. Liver disease is a serious issue, and symptoms are not always noticeable in the beginning stages. That’s why it’s important to drink responsibly and know your limits.