Intoxication – this is how alcohol affects the brain

Drunkenness occurs when alcohol impairs brain function through intoxication. With repeated alcohol use, the brain will get used to this intoxicating effect and your tolerance will grow.

Drunkenness occurs when alcohol intoxicates the brain

Drunkenness occurs when alcohol intoxicates your brain by altering the function of its nerve cell membranes. The faster you drink, the faster the amount of alcohol in your brain will rise and disrupt your brain functions.

Blood alcohol content (BAC) is measured in per mille. The effects of intoxication depend on your blood’s per mille alcohol content. Everyone reacts individually and the effects may vary greatly.

  • Under 0.5 per mille: Your inhibitions will be lowered and you will feel more confident and merry. At the same time, your concentration and judgement will be impaired and you will get clumsier.

  • 0.5–1 per mille: Your brain coordination will be impaired, hindering your ability to perform tasks demanding concentration.

  • 1–2.5 per mille: With a BAC of more than 1 per mille, you may experience nausea and confusion. Your motor control will also be further impaired.

  • 2.5–4 per mille: When your BAC exceeds 2.5 per mille, your speech will start to slur, your vision may be impaired, and you may lose consciousness.

  • More than 4 per mille: Your breathing will become laboured, your blood sugar will drop, and your body will find it difficult to maintain a normal temperature.

  • If your blood alcohol content continues to rise, it may result in potentially fatal alcohol poisoning.

As your blood alcohol content falls and you start sobering up, you will begin feeling the symptoms of a hangover. Read more about hangover symptoms.

Brains get used to alcohol

With repeated use, your body will get accustomed to alcohol. Increased tolerance mainly stems from your brain getting used to alcohol. Your liver’s ability to burn alcohol will also increase temporarily. A person who habitually consumes alcohol may appear almost sober and may be able to perform tasks that a person who is less accustomed to alcohol would not be able to perform after drinking the same amount.  Read more about burning alcohol and the removal of alcohol from the body.

Repeated alcohol use may lead to the development of a dependency on alcohol, that is, alcoholism. Read more about how to seek help with reducing or quitting alcohol use.

Uncontrolled alcohol consumption may expose your brain and other organs to other illnesses in addition to alcoholism. Read more about the illnesses caused by alcohol.

Article source: Duodecim Current Care Guidelines

Article picture: Michael Discenza / Unsplash