Does Alcohol Show Up on a Drug Test?

How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your System?

How long alcohol stays in your system largely depends on how much alcohol you drink. Tests can detect alcohol for hours, days, or sometimes even weeks after alcohol consumption.4

There are several ways to test alcohol in your system, including breath tests, blood tests, urine tests, hair tests, and saliva tests.

How Does the Body Remove Alcohol?

The body removes alcohol by breaking it down in the liver.2 Around 5 to 10 percent of the alcohol you drink will not find its way to your liver. Instead, you will sweat or urinate it out.5

Does Alcohol Show Up on a Drug Test?

How long alcohol will show up on a drug test varies. It can stay in your system for quite some time. 

Here is how long alcohol can show up on a drug test of each kind:


A breathalyzer (or breath test) is one of the most popular alcohol testing devices. Alcohol testing with a breathalyzer measures the blood alcohol content (also known as the blood alcohol concentration or BAC) in your breath.4 This means that it is best used immediately after drinking alcohol.


A blood test can detect alcohol in your system for weeks after you drink it (up to 28 days). Blood alcohol tests are typically testing for phosphatidylethanol.4 They can also check for carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT) or your full blood count (mean conspicuous volume - MCV). 

In some cases, blood alcohol tests are used as liver function tests (LFT). 


Alcohol may show up in a urine test for days after consumption. It can be detected in urine within less than an hour after drinking alcohol.4 

Its maximum concentration peaks after 5.5 hours. Depending on how much alcohol you consume, a urine test can still detect alcohol 24 to 80 hours after you drink. 

The ethyl glucuronide in urine can be detected on a test for up to 5 days after drinking.

Hair Saliva

A hair test for alcohol is less common. That said, testing a hair sample is the best way to test for alcohol consumption over a longer period. 

A hair sample can trace alcohol for up to six months.4 It can also detect drug use for up to a year.

Meanwhile, saliva only retains traces of alcohol for the first few hours to day after consumption.

Factors That Influence Alcohol Detection Time

There are several factors that influence alcohol detection time. How much you drink is the most obvious factor. The more alcohol you consume, the longer it will take for your body to break it down. Therefore, the longer it will stay in your system, and the longer it will be detectable.

How long alcohol stays in your system also depends on how quickly you drink alcohol. The faster you drink, the harder it is for your body to keep up and break down the alcohol.

Other factors that influence alcohol detection time depend on the type of drug and alcohol testing tool. A breathalyzer works best when used immediately or shortly after drinking alcohol.  

A hair test is helpful for long-term testing, but if your hair falls out quicker than average, this can affect the test.

What About False Positives?

You can get a false positive with a drug or alcohol testing tool (even if you do not drink alcohol). 

Many household products like mouthwash and hand sanitizer contain alcohol. If you use these products, some drug and alcohol testing tools may pick them up and mistake them for drinking alcohol. 

Can I Sober Up Faster From Alcohol?

Sobering up from alcohol takes time. Your liver metabolizes alcohol at a rate of about one standard drink per hour

So, if you have had a lot of drinks, it will take a few hours to sober up.

Some people believe that drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, forcing vomit, eating bread, and more can help them sober up faster. These are myths

The only way to get sober is by waiting.7 Plus, things like mixing caffeine with alcohol and forcing vomit can be dangerous.

That said, eating food can certainly help treat the symptoms you may be experiencing and prevent a hangover. Likewise, food slows down the rate at which your blood absorbs alcohol.3 This is why you should always eat before and/or while drinking alcohol. 

Drinking water can help dilute the alcohol that is in your system and rehydrate you. It also helps flush out the toxins. Fruit juices that contain vitamins B and C are also helpful in flushing out toxins.6

Symptoms of an Alcohol Overdose

The symptoms of alcohol overdose can be very severe and even fatal. The symptoms of alcohol overdose include, but are not limited to, the following: 9

If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of an alcohol overdose, call for emergency medical help immediately. Do not wait for it to be too late. An alcohol overdose can cause irreversible damage and even death.

Do You Have a Drinking Problem? Signs of Alcohol Misuse

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD), know that professional help is available for you. Also know that you are not alone. Unfortunately, alcohol misuse and addiction are both common.

In 2019, 25.8 percent of people ages 18 and older admitted to engaging in binge drinking behavior in the past month.1 Another 6.3 percent of people in the same age group reported engaging in heavy alcohol use in the past month.1 And another estimated 14.5 million people ages 12 and older reported suffering from alcohol use disorder. This breaks down to 9 million men and 5.5 million women.1

Some common signs that you may have a drinking problem include, but are not limited to: 1

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can take a damaging toll on your physical and mental health, as well as all aspects of your life and relationships. If you or someone you know is struggling, do not hesitate to reach out for help immediately.

AUD can be fatal if you do not get the help that you need. Professional medical advice could be lifesaving.

Treatment for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction

If you or someone you know is misusing alcohol, professional help is available to you. Both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation centers are options for someone with a drug or alcohol addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy, holistic therapy, and alcohol abuse support groups are also available.

You may also choose to explore more than one treatment option. For example, going to rehab and therapy at the same time can be helpful in treating both the physical and mental effects of alcohol abuse. 

Therapy may also help you unpack any triggers that drive you to drink. Or you may consider rehab and visiting a support group to meet other people in your shoes.

Whatever you choose, it is not safe to try to cut back on or quit alcohol alone if you have an alcohol addiction. There is no shame in reaching out for help.

Is Alcohol a Depressant?

What is Alcohol?

Many Americans drink alcohol at least occasionally, usually for social reasons. For most people, moderate alcohol consumption is considered safe. But consuming less alcohol is better for your health than drinking more.

Some people should not drink at all. Drinking too much alcohol can be harmful to your health and may lead to an alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

If you drink, it is essential to know how alcohol affects you and how much is too much.

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Body?

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. This means that alcohol is a drug that slows down brain activity. It can alter your mood, behavior, and self-control.2

Drinking alcohol can lead to problems with memory and thinking clearly. It can also affect your coordination and physical control. 

In addition, alcohol affects the other organs in your body. For example, it can heighten your blood pressure and heart rate. If you consume too much alcohol at once, you may throw up or experience alcohol intoxication.

Why is Alcohol Considered a Depressant?

In larger doses, alcohol changes from a stimulant to a depressant. It slows down your nervous system, heart rate, and blood pressure. This leads to mental fogginess, tiredness, and lack of coordination.

People who have ingested large quantities of alcohol often have slower reaction times. They may appear tired, disorientated, or sedated. Higher amounts of alcohol can also reduce dopamine production, which can make you feel sad.

The depressant effects of alcohol develop when your BAC hits around 0.08 mg/l. Once your BAC reaches 0.2 mg/l or higher, its depressant effects on your respiratory system can become so overbearing that they lead to coma or death.

The Difference Between ‘Depressants’ and ‘Stimulants’

Stimulants and depressants both affect your brain function and central nervous system. However, they do so in opposite ways. 

Stimulants heighten and excite your central nervous system. They may increase your heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in more energy. In high quantities, they can lead to insomnia and make you jittery and impulsive.3

Examples of stimulants include weak or mild caffeine, more potent prescription amphetamines, and illegal drugs like cocaine.

Depressants slow you down by reducing your heart rate and blood pressure. They may help you feel relaxed. On the extreme end, they may sedate you entirely.4

Benzodiazepines are a type of depressant drug. They are used to treat anxiety disorders and insomnia. Prescription opiates are another type of potent depressant drug.

Some compounds can have characteristics of both depressant and stimulant drugs. Nicotine is one example, although it is most frequently characterized as a stimulant.

Alcohol is another example, which is typically characterized as a depressant but has stimulant effects.

You should avoid mixing alcohol with depressant or stimulant drugs due to the risk of severe side effects.

Can Alcohol Cause Depression (& Vice Versa)?

Research has shown that there is a link and bidirectional relationship between alcohol dependence and depressive disorders. Both disorders may exist together, each condition heightens the risk for the other disorder, and each disorder can worsen the other.6

Regardless of which disorder came first, both issues co-occur often and are among the most common psychiatric disorders.7

The pathways resulting in the development of co-occurring alcohol use disorder and depression are complex and intertwined. Some people may be genetically susceptible to both disorders. For others, symptoms of depression can influence the development of an alcohol or drug abuse problem.

One likely contributor to co-occurrence is that people may worsen a depressive disorder with substances like alcohol. People who have major depressive symptoms may rely on alcohol to help with their symptoms and ‘feel better.’ However, over time, this can lead to an alcohol or substance use disorder.

Even in circumstances where an individual does not develop alcohol addiction, self-medication is unlikely to be helpful long-term. This is because self-medication with alcohol is linked to increased psychiatric comorbidity and stress levels, as well as a lower quality of life.

It is essential to understand that the co-occurrence of alcohol use disorder and depressive disorders, especially major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder, is linked to higher severity and a worse prognosis than either condition alone. This includes an increased risk for suicidal behavior. 

What are the Symptoms of Alcohol-Related Depression?

Symptoms of depression may include:

Symptoms of alcohol use disorder may include:

Dangers of Mixing Alcohol With Other Depressants

Combining medicines (prescribed or not) with alcohol can lead to unpredictable and unwanted results. It is essential to understand the dangers of mixing alcohol with other depressants to avoid them.

Consuming alcohol with other depressants like Xanax or Valium can have a synergistic effect, with potential for dangerous or even lethal consequences.10 

The combination may lead to the following:

Signs of Alcohol Misuse & Addiction

Symptoms of alcohol use disorder may be mild, moderate, or severe, based on the number of symptoms experienced. 

Signs and symptoms of alcohol misuse and addiction may include: 11

Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Most people with an alcohol or drug addiction can benefit from treatment. Medical treatments and therapies include medicines and behavioral sessions. For many patients, using both in a professional treatment facility provides the best results.12

People receiving treatment for alcohol use disorder may also find it beneficial to meet at support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). If you have an alcohol use disorder and a mental health problem, it is essential to seek help for both conditions. 

Some patients may require intensive treatment for AUD. They may visit a rehab center for residential treatment. 

Treatment at a rehab center is highly structured. It typically includes several different types of behavioral therapies. It may also include medication for detox, otherwise known as alcohol withdrawal.

Can Pregnant Women Drink Wine?

Can Women Drink Wine During Pregnancy?

Drinking any alcohol during pregnancy can be very harmful to your baby. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that no amount of alcohol is safe for pregnant women.1 While a glass of wine may sound like a more responsible choice than a beer or shot, all alcohol contains the same chemical.

Wine and other types of alcohol can give you a buzz because they have ethyl alcohol or ethanol. This is a toxin to your body, including to your growing baby.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you avoid alcohol if you’re:

  • Pregnant
  • Trying to get pregnant or think you might be pregnant

How Many Glasses of Wine is Safe to Drink During Pregnancy?

It is not safe to drink wine or any other type of alcohol if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Wine is not safer to drink than other forms of alcohol, like spirits.

There are reported instances of midwives suggesting the occasional glass of red wine for stress relief.4 There are also beliefs that red wine in small amounts may be beneficial for fetal circulation.

However, certain risks, such as miscarriage and low birth weight, increased in women who consumed as little as an ounce of alcohol daily.

What Does Science Say About Drinking Wine During Pregnancy?

Studies on the health risks of drinking alcohol in pregnancy go back decades. The same outcomes from alcohol and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are found around the world.

A 2013 British study is renowned as groundbreaking.6 It assessed nearly 7,000 children who were ten years old and had mothers who self-reported different levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Most reported little to no consumption of drinking alcohol.

The study discovered that light to moderate drinking had no adverse effect on the balance of the children. It also found that higher amounts of drinking linked to better balance.6

However, there are several issues with this study. There were other factors, such as socioeconomic ones, to consider, although the study did try to adjust for these.

Two, the study only assessed balance and not other common indicators of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

However, this study seems to contradict earlier ones that showed that poorer balance is linked with drinking during pregnancy.7 The study investigators also mention this.

It is also essential to understand that alcohol has been linked to different problems during pregnancy. Research by healthcare company Kaiser Permanente discovered that the risk of having a miscarriage is highest if you drink alcohol in the first ten weeks of pregnancy.5

Dangers of Drinking Wine While Pregnant

Some types of issues during pregnancy and birth are associated with alcohol but may not be classified as strictly alcohol-related birth problems.

These include:

Drinking wine while breastfeeding your baby can also result in problems.

There may be a link between drinking wine and issues like:

Drinking wine during pregnancy may also lead to other issues that can begin later in your child’s life. These include at-risk behaviors and social problems.

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy may give your child an increased risk of:

How Can Alcohol Negatively Affect a Growing Baby? 

When a pregnant woman consumes alcohol, it can enter the bloodstream through the placenta to the baby. The baby may receive a higher blood concentration than you do as their developing body cannot get rid of it as fast as you can.

Alcohol may block some of the oxygen and nutrition your baby requires for healthy growth. In some cases, alcohol can slow or harm organ growth and lead to permanent brain damage in a developing baby. 

These alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD) are more prevalent in cases of excessive alcohol consumption.

What Is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?

Most fetal health problems linked to alcohol are known by the term fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Each year, up to 40,000 babies are born with an FASD in the United States.10 

FASD is used to describe any condition that develops as an occurrence of a pregnant woman’s alcohol use.

One 2017 study found that one of every 13 pregnant women who drank alcohol had a baby with some form of FASD.3

Many European women famously drink wine throughout their pregnancies. However, the same 2017 study found that Europe has the highest overall percentage of babies born with FASD.

Some babies with FASDs may look healthy but have issues with:

The most severe type of FASD is fetal alcohol syndrome. 

This condition may lead to:

Fetal death is the most extreme and severe outcome to occur from drinking alcohol while pregnant. 

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) represents the most overt presentation of the FASD spectrum. The syndrome can occur from excessive alcohol consumption, binge drinking, or regular alcohol use during pregnancy.

Children with FAS may have:

Those with FAS may have a combination of these problems. The effects are irreversible and last a lifetime. However, FAS is completely preventable if a pregnant woman abstains from drinking red wine and other types of alcohol.

How to Avoid Alcohol During Pregnancy

It may not be as challenging as you think to avoid alcohol entirely during pregnancy. Many women even go off the taste of alcohol during early pregnancy.

Most women give up alcohol once they realize they are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Women who discover they are pregnant after already having drunk alcohol in early pregnancy should stop drinking further.

However, they should try not to worry as the risks of their child being affected are likely to be low. If you are concerned, speak with a midwife or doctor.

If you suffer from alcohol addiction or have concerning drinking habits, research has proven that treatment can be very effective in helping people become sober.9 Treatment usually involves a combination of private and group counseling sessions, behavioral therapies, support groups, and medications.

Does Alcohol Kill Brain Cells?

Does Drinking Alcohol Kill Brain Cells?

While alcohol does damage the brain, it does not kill brain cells. Drinking is associated with a variety of adverse cognitive effects both in the short- and long-term. 

In the short-term, this includes loss of muscle coordination, slurred speech, memory loss, and possible loss of consciousness. 

In the long-term, alcohol damages the brain in several ways, from deforming brain cells to brain shrinkage.

What Does Science Say?

Alcohol is a neurotoxin that damages cognitive function in multiple ways. Research indicates heavy drinking can damage neurons by inhibiting the development of dendrites. Dendrites are responsible for problem-solving, memory, and focus and are essential in the development of neurons.15

Researchers point to thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency as the culprit. Many of those suffering from alcohol use disorder (AUD), commonly known as alcoholism, end up malnourished, leading to thiamine deficiency. Thiamine is an essential vitamin for the metabolism of dendrites. 

Alcohol use also leads to loss of brain volume — literally shrinking the brain. This does not just apply to heavy drinking. There is evidence to suggest this is also true for moderate alcohol consumption.2 

What is Considered Heavy Drinking?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, heavy drinking is defined as four or more drinks on a given day for men or more than fourteen drinks in a week. For women, this is three or more drinks on a given day or more than seven drinks in a week. 

Does Moderate Alcohol Consumption Kill Brain Cells? 

A recent British study showed that moderate drinkers tripled their risk of brain damage over thirty years. 

Specifically, moderate drinking is associated with a reduction in brain volume. According to the study, moderate drinkers had a three times greater risk of brain shrinkage over thirty years.12 

Heavy drinkers had six times the risk, showing that more drinking leads to more damage.12  However, this shrinkage does not appear to be due to brain cell death but from other forms of damage.

Short-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Brain

When a person drinks alcohol, several brain areas are affected, causing short-term emotional and behavioral changes. One area of the brain alcohol affects is the cerebral cortex, responsible for thinking and making decisions. As a person drinks, their inhibitions gradually reduce, and they become less shy and more impulsive. 

As drinking continues, it affects the limbic system of the brain, which controls emotions. The person may become sad, angry, or aggressive. Intoxicated people often are uncoordinated and lose their balance. This is because of alcohol's effect on the cerebellum. 

When alcohol reaches the hypothalamus, it interferes with hormones and can cause excessive urination and sexual impairment. 

The medulla is the brain area that controls the most basic functions, such as consciousness, breathing, and heart rate. Therefore, drinking may cause the person to feel sleepy and slow down their heart and breathing. 

Do Brain Cells Regenerate After Drinking?

Research has shown that the brain damage caused by alcohol can be at least partially reversed. According to MRI studies, the brain does recover to some extent after a significant period of abstinence (about a year).2

Some long-term effects of alcohol on the brain include:

Memory Loss 

Long term alcohol use causes a persistent form of memory impairment, which affects short-term or "working memory." Short-term memories therefore never get stored as new long term memories.

Brain Atrophy

MRI studies allow scientists to see and measure the brain. These studies show that alcohol use causes parts of the brain to shrink or become less dense. This is called atrophy. Certain parts of the brain appear to be especially vulnerable. 

The frontal lobes are important for voluntary movement, language, and higher-level thinking. One study showed shrinkage of 11% in this area in heavy drinkers.15

Shrinkage of the cerebellum, which controls balance and movement, can happen in long-term drinkers. This is also true of the corpus callosum, an area that links the right and left sides of the brain, allowing communication between them.2 

Another vulnerable area is the hippocampus, which is vital for learning and memory. Atrophy of this area is also strongly linked to Alzheimer's Disease.1

Neurogenesis Issues

Neurogenesis means the creation of new brain cells. It was once thought that the body was unable to create new brain cells, but it is now known that new brain cells (neurons) can be generated. 

Scientists also know that alcohol interferes with this process, which some think may explain brain atrophy.However, it has been shown that neurogenesis does begin again if a person stops drinking, though it takes months for the new neurons to be put in place.2

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome

WKS is a devastating disorder of brain function associated with a lack of thiamine. This happens because heavy drinkers eat poorly and are often malnourished. It is actually two disorders — Wernicke syndrome and Korsakoff syndrome — but they often occur one after the other. 

Wernicke syndrome develops first and has three symptoms: confusion, lack of physical coordination, involuntary movements, and abnormal involuntary eye movements or eye paralysis. 

Without medical intervention, about 80% of affected people develop Korsakoff syndrome. In this phase, the person shows significant short-term memory impairment — they are unable to create new memories and retain new information. Sometimes long-term memories are lost as well. 

The ability to pay attention and have a conversation is not affected, so this person may seem normal to a casual observer. The person may not even be aware of the problem. WKS may cause permanent nerve damage and weakness of the arms and legs.

Mental Health Disorders

Many heavy drinkers find it hard to quit even if they want to do so.  If they stop drinking, they may experience withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild to severe. These include tremors, irritability, and anxiety, or sleep disruptions. 

More severe symptoms include hallucinations, seizures, sweating, fever, fast heart rate, and high blood pressure.

Alcohol Dependence & Withdrawal

Many heavy drinkers find it hard to quit even if they want to do so.  If they stop drinking, they may experience withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild to severe. These include tremors, irritability and anxiety, or sleep disruptions. 

More severe symptoms include hallucinations, seizures, sweating, fever, fast heart rate, and high blood pressure. 

Can You Lose IQ From Drinking?

Research indicates alcohol exposure over a significant period of time will lower IQ. A study of just under 50,000 Swedish military conscripts between 1969 and 1970 found that IQ was inversely correlated with heavy alcohol consumption.11 A study in neighboring Norway found similar results.9

Women who drink while pregnant put their children at higher risk of developing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Children born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome have IQ's well below average.9

Is Alcohol-Induced Brain Damage Reversible?

Damage to dendrites caused by alcohol can be reversed after a period of abstinence.2 Brain scans have also shown that some brain atrophy can be reversed. Some improvement has been seen in just one month of abstinence, with mild improvements after six months. 

The degree of recovery depends on the duration and quantity of alcohol use, though most published studies indicate that complete recovery may not be possible.13

How Long Does it Take Your Brain to Heal From Alcohol?

The level of alcohol-related brain damage depends on the severity of alcohol use, the age at which it began, and how long it continued. It takes months for the brain to generate new cells and put them in place. 

The reversal of brain volume loss has been seen as soon as a month after the drinking stopped, and some mental faculties begin to improve about 6 months afterward. However, this process is uneven and full recovery is unlikely. 

One study showed no regrowth at all of the prefrontal lobes after 6 months.13

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder & Treatment Options

Symptoms of alcohol use disorder include:

Treatment options include: 

The Health Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol and Working Out

The Link Between Alcohol and Fitness

Alcohol can hurt your overall well-being. When you drink in excess, it can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Therefore, drinking alcohol can negatively impact your fitness goals and results.

Effects of Drinking Before & After Working Out 

You should never drink alcohol before you work out because it impairs your judgment and motor skills. For these reasons, drinking alcohol before working out can be dangerous. This is especially true if you are doing exercises like weight lifting or going for a run outside where there may be traffic. 

Drinking after your workout can also ruin some of your progress and negatively impacts your overall health. After all, alcohol interferes with rehydration, protein synthesis, and overall recovery (think: glycogen replenishment and sleep), which you need after a workout.6 All of this can affect your immune and cognitive functioning, mood, appetite (which can lead you to make unhealthy choices), and more.

How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Your Workout?

Again, drinking alcohol can make your workout more dangerous. It is never safe to be drunk during exercise activities. Beyond the increased risk for injury, alcohol in your blood can affect your workout in several ways.

Does Alcohol Interfere With Muscle Repair & Growth?

Yes, alcohol does interfere with muscle repair and growth. When you drink alcohol, it may take your muscles longer to repair and to grow. This is because alcohol contributes to protein breakdown, which you need to build strength.4

Plus, alcohol intake is linked to weight gain, which can make it difficult to see any muscle growth.7 This is because many alcoholic beverages are high in calories (empty calories with no nutritional value). So, if you spend hours exercising in the gym to burn calories, but you drink alcohol regularly, you are slowing down the process.

That said, some research shows a reduced leakage of the proteins in the muscles when alcohol is ingested before working out.5

How Does Alcohol Affect Soreness?

Yes, you may feel extra sore after working out if you drink pre- or post-workout. Drinking alcohol may make you feel your workout more, even if you only have one drink or a few drinks. This is because alcohol dehydrates you, which may make your muscles feel stiff.

How Does Alcohol Impact Performance & Energy Levels?

Alcohol can significantly impact your workout because it increases fatigue. If you have consumed alcoholic beverages the night before a workout, which could also impact your sleep, chances are that your performance will be off balance.

Specifically, alcohol increases your level of epinephrine, which is a stress hormone.2 It boosts your heart rate, which means it can keep you awake and disturb your sleep. This is why when you drink alcohol and workout the next day, you may feel extra tired.

Plus, if you have a hangover from consuming too much alcohol, it can also lead to a poor performance.

How Does Alcohol Cause Dehydration? 

Alcohol makes you sweat and causes dehydration. Because you sweat when you workout, drinking alcohol and exercising can be bad for your overall wellness. If you have alcohol in your system, or if you are hungover going into a workout, it is important to drink extra fluids to keep yourself hydrated.

Research published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs suggests that rehydration after exercise is especially important when you have fluid loss from alcohol.3

How Long Should You Wait to Drink Alcohol After Working Out?

How long you should wait to drink alcohol after working out depends on your fitness goals and drinking behavior. Having a glass of wine in the evening after a workout will not throw off your lifestyle if you are trying to live a healthy one. But drinking alcohol after working out can slow your progress, especially if you are trying to lose weight. 

Can You Drink in Moderation While Maintaining Fitness Goals?

Yes, you can drink in moderation while maintaining your fitness goals. In fact, moderate alcohol consumption can have some positive effects on your cardiovascular health.8

But every single body is different, and it is important to listen to yours. If you find that you do not exercise well when you drink alcohol, and this impacts your performance, drink less. If you find that alcohol is responsible for many of the calories you consume, you may want to consider cutting back or cutting it out completely.

At the end of the day, alcohol could hurt your exercise routine and slow your growth. For example, if you drink a lot one night, your recovery time might throw you off track. Plus, it may take your body longer to recover from your workouts and any possible injuries if you drink in excess.

If you are spending hours counting calories, cutting bad carbohydrates, focusing on your nutrition, and working out your body with a different exercise for every muscle group, booze can get in the way and counteract your hard work. Ask yourself: does that one beer feel worth it?

Symptoms of Alcoholism & Treatment Options

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol misuse or alcohol use disorder (AUD), know that help is available. Reach out to your trusted medical professional, or seek out support via peer groups, inpatient or outpatient rehab, or therapy.

Symptoms of alcoholism include, but are not limited to, the following.2

High Functioning Alcoholics and Relationships

What is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?

A high-functioning alcoholic (or functional alcoholic) is not a formal diagnosis. It is a term used to describe someone who is dependent on alcohol but can still function in society.

High-functioning alcoholics are typically able to manage areas of life, including jobs, families, and homes. Their personal life may seem fine on the outside.

They may appear physically and mentally healthy. However, they struggle with uncontrollable cravings, troubles with quitting alcohol, and obsessive thoughts about drinking. These are all typical of an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

With time, an alcohol use disorder can lead to many health problems, including liver disease and high blood pressure.

7 Warning Signs of a High-Functioning Alcoholic

Here are some common warning signs of a high-functioning alcoholic:

1. Drinking Alcohol to Cope

Some people drink alcohol as a coping mechanism. If you or a loved one is drinking to cope with a stressful situation or negative emotions, this may be a sign of an alcohol use disorder.

Even if you tell yourself that your habits are not an alcohol use disorder, these signs are a red flag. If you drink to cope with your daily life, you may require professional help.

2. Drinking in Every Situation

Moderate drinking can become a problem when you drink in every situation. This includes needing a drink to sleep, wake up, calm down, or when you are anxious. High-functioning alcoholics often wonder about their next drink.

You may believe alcoholism is limited to drinking too much alcohol in one sitting, otherwise known as binge drinking. However, it can include drinking a moderate number of drinks daily.

3. Drinking Alone

Drinking alone can be a sign of high functioning alcoholism. When drinking alone, it is more challenging to limit the amount you consume. Take note of how often you drink alone. 

If you find yourself buying a bottle to drink alone a few times a week, you may need to seek help.

4. Drinking Too Much

If you drink too much, this may be a sign of high functioning alcoholism. It is essential to note that functional alcoholics may not get into trouble, engage in risky behavior, or behave poorly even if they drink too much.

They may still care for their family, keep up with tasks at work, and not show any negative emotions or behaviors like depression, anger, or low self-esteem. 

If you notice you are drinking a lot, you may have a problem.

5. Developing Tolerance

If you drink alcohol often, your body will build a tolerance for it. This means that with time you will have to drink more to reach a specific level of intoxication. 

Drinking often creates a cycle of dependence, and you will begin to crave alcohol.

6. Experiencing Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

If you drink alcohol often, once you stop for a couple of days, you will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. You may feel depressed, anxious, irritable, or nauseous. You may also have difficulty sleeping and experience mood swings.

In some cases, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening.

7. Denying the Problem

Many high functioning alcoholics use denial to avoid a conversation about their drinking problem. They may say they drink because they are stressed out at work or come up with another excuse.

What Responsibilities Can High-Functioning Alcoholics Maintain?

Many high-functioning alcoholics can function at work and in social situations. They may still be able to manage their homes and families. However,  in many cases, they cannot hide their alcohol use problem from the people closest to them.

High-Functioning Alcoholics and Relationships

Alcohol addiction is a harmful and damaging disease that takes a devastating toll on the lives of the people it touches. High-functioning alcoholics often damage their personal relationships and spiral other people’s lives into chaos.

Married to a Functional Alcoholic 

Alcoholic husbands and wives may be abusive or emotionally distant. The disease can put a strain on a marriage. Every individual who loves someone with high functioning alcoholism faces challenging decisions when figuring how to help. 

Dating a Functional Alcoholic 

A functional alcoholic may seem fine on the outside, but this does not mean they are not experiencing personal or business-related issues. Being in a relationship with a high functioning alcoholic can bring severe psychological and emotional damage to someone.

Friend of a Functional Alcoholic

Friends and people close to a functional alcoholic can also experience problems with the relationship. Friends and family members may develop mental health issues from dealing with a high-functioning alcoholic.

Children of a Functional Alcoholic 

High alcohol consumption can have a profound psychological impact on children. Alcohol addiction can make a child’s upbringing more complex and painful than other kids’ experiences.

A child who grows up watching their parent’s addiction unfold may not understand or be able to engage in normal behavior. They may develop self-esteem problems or feel different from others because of the way they were raised.

How to Manage Relationships with a High-Functioning Alcoholic

There are various ways to manage relationships with high-functioning alcoholics:

How to Help Your Loved One 

It can be challenging to watch someone you love struggle with substance use problems. If you are related to or are in a relationship with a functional alcoholic, there are resources you can give to them that can help them reach lifelong recovery.

These resources may be as close as their local doctor’s office or include addiction treatment facilities or peer groups. These resources all may be effective in an individual’s aim to reduce or stop their unhealthy drinking behaviors.

Peer support or self-help groups can be valuable in reducing or stopping heavy drinking problems and can improve a person’s health and emotional well-being. 

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a twelve-step fellowship providing meetings globally to help people stop drinking.6 SMART Recovery is a peer support group that promotes abstinence by applying evidence-based principles in meetings.7 Women for Society helps women address emotional problems linked with a drinking problem.8

An intervention can also help diagnose individuals with alcohol problems and encourage them to seek treatment and help. If performed early enough, it can help prevent further progression in the severity of their disease.

Early intervention may also stop the development of other alcohol-related mental disorders or negative health consequences.

What Not to Do

Many spouses, friends, and children of high-functioning alcoholics fall into the trap of codependency. During codependency, friends and family members of high-functioning alcoholics protect the individual suffering from alcoholism from the negative consequences of the disease.

Friends and family members sacrifice their own needs to maintain a sense of normalcy at home. Classic codependent behaviors include making excuses for a high-functioning alcoholic’s actions. For example, you might say that they are too sick to attend a party or gathering.

Other codependent behaviors include covering a high functioning alcoholics’ expenses. You may pay for traffic tickets, legal fees, or fines that the individual incurred. You may also hide the negative consequences of heavy drinking, such as cleaning up messes or washing ruined clothes before the individual is sober enough to see them.

It is essential not to fall into codependency to help the individual receive the help and treatment they need instead of pretending that their alcohol problems do not exist.

How to Find Support Groups 

It can be challenging having a functional alcoholic in your life. Al-Anon is an example of a support group for the friends and families of individuals suffering from alcoholism. 

Al-Anon is a mutual support group for people whose lives have been affected by another person’s drinking habits.9 By sharing experiences and applying the Al-Anon principles, friends and families of high functioning addicts can bring positive changes to their unique situations. This is whether or not their loved one admits a drinking problem or seeks help.

Alateen is part of the Al-Anon Family Groups. It is a fellowship of young people (primarily teenagers) whose lives have been affected by the drinking problems of family members or friends, whether they are currently in their life drinking or not. By participating in Alateen, teenagers can meet other young people with similar experiences. 

When to Step Away

Choosing to step away from a friend or family member abusing alcohol is challenging. However, walking away may be essential for your own well-being if they continue to refuse to accept they need help or seek treatment.

Before you step away, try to sell your loved one on an intervention. Take the time to learn the knowledge you can use during an intervention. Speak with a local professional interventionist or substance use rehabilitation counselor.

These experts will help you learn what you may need to change in yourself to help your loved one addicted to alcohol. They can help you understand someone else’s alcoholism more and how the disease progresses.

With this understanding, you can develop a support group from friends and family members who will help you sell your loved one an intervention.

The Challenge of Helping Functional Alcoholics

The challenge of helping functional alcoholics is that they are often not viewed as alcoholics by their loved ones, society, or even themselves. This is because functioning alcoholics do not fit the typical stereotypes of an alcoholic, like being unemployed or unemployable, slurring their speech, smelling like alcohol, and more.

As high functioning alcoholics seem to perform well, their alcohol problem does not appear to be an issue. Because of this, high functioning alcoholics are often not approached by their family, friends, or colleagues concerning their drinking behaviors.

Likewise, these individuals often lack insight into how or if drinking many alcoholic beverages disrupts their lives. There is typically failure to understand that their alcohol use is an issue leading to inability to receive help.

Treatment Options for High-Functioning Alcoholics 

Alcohol addiction treatment is provided in various settings. The setting is dependent on the unique needs and requirements of each individual. 

Inpatient treatment is provided in a setting where the individual stays in a facility for the whole duration of the treatment. Staff members offer consistent monitoring and care, including detox addiction medicine treatment.

Outpatient treatment allows a patient to continue to live at home without taking time away from school or work. They receive treatment ranging in intensity depending on the individual’s needs.

How to Deal with an Angry Drunk

Why are Some People Angry Drunks?

It is not uncommon to come across a mean drunk person. Some people get angry after drinking alcohol. This is largely due to excessive drinking, which can cause mental health issues, including anger issues.

Someone with an alcohol addiction may experience angry outbursts with little to no regard for the consequences of their actions. This is because alcohol is a depressant and, when people drink, their decision-making skills are impaired.8 They may have little to no self-control after heavy drinking.

If you or someone you know has a drinking problem (or an anger problem when drinking), know that professional addiction treatment for both alcohol use and substance use is available. While this may be an especially difficult time, you do not need to go down the road to recovery alone.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence or violent crimes, reach out for help immediately. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7, and it is free and confidential for your safety.7

What the Research Says 

A 2018 study looked at MRI scans of participants to see alcohol-related changes in the prefrontal cortex of their brains.4 Results showed a decrease in brain activity in this region of the brain, which is related to inhibition and working memory. This reflects lower self-awareness and an increased bias toward hostility, making some men more aggressive when they drink.

Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), is a huge public health concern in the United States. In fact, in a national study published, 23 percent of Black couples, 17 percent of Hispanic couples, and 11.5 percent of white couples reported male-to-female partner violence in the 12 months preceding the research.1 And the rate of female-to-male IPV was also high at 30 percent of Black couples, 21 percent of Hispanic couples, and 15 percent of white couples reporting it.1

Alcohol plays a major role in IPV. Specifically, 30 to 40 percent of the men and 27 to 34 percent of the women who were violent with their partners were drinking.1

The Psychology of an Angry Drunk

Alcohol affects the brain in a number of ways. In short, drinking alcohol directly affects a person’s cognitive and physical functioning.5 This reduces their ability to come to a non-violent resolution if conflicts arise in relationships.

Plus, alcohol depresses the central nervous system (CNS), acting similar to a sedative in slowing down motor coordination and reaction time.8 When someone drinks alcohol, the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine tell them that they feel happier and relaxed.(6) But that wears off when they sober up, which can lead to a depression, which is a common hangover symptom.9

The effects of alcohol also take a toll on someone’s judgment, memory, and reasoning — especially if they blackout from drinking.2 And alcohol can impact sleep, leading to insomnia.(8)

If someone is not able to make sound decisions, has trouble remembering what they have done the next day, gets little to no sleep, and wakes up tired with a hangover, this can all be a recipe for disaster. After all, drunken behavior can cause harm to others. And studies show that sleep deprivation only increases anger and aggression.10

Excessive drinking can also cause financial difficulties, get in the way of family obligations like childcare duties, and lead to infidelity.5 All of these things can be problematic and make someone act out in anger. 

While alcohol does affect people’s judgment, researchers have suggested that some people may consciously use alcohol as an excuse for their aggressive drinking behavior.1

Connection Between Angry Drunks and Depression

Someone’s drunk behavior may seem angry because alcohol is tied to depression.2 Even if that person’s personality type is not necessarily aggressive when they are sober, they can become aggressive when they are drunk and when they are sobering up after drinking.

What to Do if You Live with an Angry Drunk

If you live with someone whose drinking behavior is dangerous for you, seek immediate help. Again, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7, free, and confidential.7

Ways to Deal with an Angry Drunk

Here are three ways to deal with an angry drunk.

1. Talk to them when they are sober

Don’t try to engage with an angry drunk person.3 Understand that they are not currently in their right mind, and you will not get a rational response. They may not even be aware of what is happening or remember the situation anyway.

You will have a better chance of de-escalating a situation by removing yourself from it than you would by trying to engage in a discussion that can turn aggressive or violent.

2. Keep yourself safe

If you are worried for your safety, reach out for emergency help. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline any time.7

If you are not worried about your safety, you should still keep cautious around an angry drunk. Do your best to remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible. If you know that someone has a tendency to be an angry drunk, you may take preventive measures. These can include not being alone with them in private places, not drinking yourself, and having a method of transportation to get yourself home if necessary, among others.

3. Try to get the person some help

If you are dealing with someone who tends to be an angry drunk, they may have an anger problem, a drinking problem, or both. Help them find professional help. Helping them also helps you!

Tips: How to Stop Being an Angry Drunk

If you are someone who gets angry when you drink, be mindful of your alcohol intake. The most obvious step would be to not drink. This is easier said than done, especially if you have an alcohol addiction.

If you are worried that you may have an alcohol addiction, reach out for professional rehab help. You should not try to cut back on alcohol alone, as alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and even deadly.

If you find that you grow angry when you are drunk due to relationship issues, financial concerns, or other personal problems, exploring therapy options can help you better manage your anger and empower you to get back on the right track.

How to Tell if Your Loved One is an Alcoholic

Alcoholism refers to a chronic disease in which a person has an addiction to alcohol. It is also known as alcohol use disorder. You may notice that they continue to drink alcohol despite the toll it takes on their life. Or they have trouble controlling or cutting back on their alcohol intake, constantly finding themselves wanting alcohol.

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Symptoms of alcohol use disorder include the following:

Treatment Options: How to Find Help for Them

If you or someone you know, such as family members or another loved one, has a drinking problem, reach out for professional help immediately. Both inpatient and outpatient alcohol rehab centers are available with trusted medical and mental health professionals.

Alcohol and drug addiction support groups also exist to help people battle alcohol and substance use problems. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help people get to the real root of their toxic drinking habits and identify triggers. Therapy can also help with anger management. 

Never to try to detox from an alcohol addiction alone. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, and cutting your alcohol consumption cold turkey can be deadly. It is always best to recover with the help of a professional support system.

Alcohol-Related Deaths

How Many People Die From Alcohol in the U.S. Every Year?

Excessive alcohol consumption is a public health concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),4 excessive drinking is the culprit behind more than 95,000 deaths in the United States every single year. That equates to 261 alcohol-related deaths each and every day.

More than half of those who have lost their lives to alcohol suffered from the long-term health effects of drinking too much. These include certain types of cancers, liver disease, and heart disease. But some people were also killed in motor vehicle accidents and overdoses that also involved other substances. 

Regardless of how they died, their deaths shortened their lives by an average of nearly 29 years. This adds up to a total of 2.8 million years of potential life lost to excessive alcohol consumption.

In fact, excessive alcohol use is such a leading cause of preventable death in the United States, it cost the country $249 billion in 2010.

How Many People Die From Alcohol Worldwide Every Year?

Around the world, people die from alcohol use every single day. In fact, the world witnesses three million alcohol-attributable deaths every year, according to the World Health Organization.1 This represents 5.3 percent of all deaths worldwide.

Moreover, alcohol is responsible for 5.1 percent of the global burden of disease and injury. In other words, if alcohol isn’t killing people directly, it’s causing diseases and injuries that can.

Why Have Alcohol-Related Deaths Doubled Since 1999?

Since 1999, alcohol-related death rates in the United States have doubled among people who are at least 16 years old, according to a recent study published recently in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research by researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.17

Specifically, the amount of alcohol‐related deaths per year among people of at least 16 years old doubled from 35,914 to 72,558. The rate also increased 50.9% from 16.9 to 25.5 per 100,000. The study suggests that about one million alcohol-related deaths were recorded from 1999 to 2017. In fact, in 2017, 2.6 percent of the about 2.8 million deaths in the United States involved alcohol in some way, shape, or form.

There could be a whole host of reasons behind this increase. For example, alcohol is largely linked to depression,7 and depression has, too, been on the rise.

In fact, depression has tripled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.9 Plus, the rise of social media in recent years has led to people’s constant fear of missing out and the need to compare themselves to each other’s highlight reels. That alone has upped depression rates.14

Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Mortality

The risk of mortality increases the more (and more often) someone drinks.12 While heavy drinkers are at the highest risk of alcohol-related mortality, moderate drinkers still face some level of risk. Non-drinkers even face risk because they may be unfortunate victims in motor vehicle crashes.

For example, in 2016, 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes.15 These drunk driving accidents accounted for 28 percent of all traffic-related deaths across the country.

What are the Most Common Alcohol-Related Deaths? 

Some of the most common alcohol-related deaths include heart disease, cancer, and liver disease. Heavy use of alcohol, like all excessive substance use, can take a significant toll.

Alcohol Consumption and All-Cause Mortality

People die from excessive alcohol consumption every single day. On average, six people die of alcohol poisoning every day in the United States.3 Many more people lose their lives to overdoses that involve other substances, including prescription drugs.

But the leading causes of alcohol-related deaths relate to longer-term diseases.

Alcohol Consumption and Heart Disease Mortality

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.6 This is true for both men and women across the board.

One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States due to heart disease. This adds up to about 655,000 Americans who die from it every year. That equates to about one in every four deaths across the country.

Alcohol misuse can lead to high blood pressure and other health conditions that cause strokes and cardiovascular diseases over time.5

Alcohol Consumption and Cancer Mortality

Heavy drinking can increase one’s risk of developing certain types of cancer. In fact, alcohol consumption ends in anywhere between 18,200 and 21,300 cancer deaths, or 3.2 to 3.7 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States.11 From 2013 to 2016 alone, alcohol consumption was linked to 75,000 new cancer diagnoses and nearly 19,000 cancer-related deaths each year.13

Mouth and throat cancer is largely linked to alcohol. Almost half of new diagnoses are related to drinking alcohol in most states.10 Almost 30 percent of all voice box (laryngeal) cancers are tied to alcohol. And about 12 percent of new breast cancer diagnoses in women related to drinking alcohol.

Alcohol Consumption and Liver Disease Mortality

Alcohol is one of the leading causes of liver disease. And liver disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. 

Liver cirrhosis was the 12th leading cause of death in the country in 2015.8 Specifically, 42,443 people died that year, which was 2,494 more people than the year before. Among the number of alcohol-related deaths linked to liver cirrhosis in 2015, nearly half (49.5) percent were alcohol-related.

Who is at Risk of Alcohol-Related Problems?

Anyone can develop alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is defined as an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol intake, despite the consequences, according to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.16

Binge drinkers and heavy drinkers are at higher risks of developing AUD over time.16 But other factors also contribute.

People who start drinking at an early age are at an increased risk of AUD later down the line. Those who start drinking before the age of 15 are actually five times as likely to report having AUD as those who waited until the legal drinking age of 21 years old. Women in this group are at a higher risk than men.

Likewise, people who have a family history of alcohol problems are at risk of developing their own. About 60 percent of alcoholism is tied to genetics. This is also because parent’s drinking habits can influence their children’s patterns.

Mental health also plays a role. People who struggle with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other mental illnesses are vulnerable to AUD. Those who still cope with childhood traumas are also at a higher risk.

That said, anyone can develop a drinking problem. If you, a loved one, or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction, seek professional help. You don’t have to navigate the road to recovery alone (and doing so is dangerous). 

How to Reduce Your Risk of Harm from Alcohol 

To reduce your risk of health problems from alcohol, be smart about how much and how often you drink — if you choose to drink at all. If you are going to drink, drink moderately.

Moderate alcohol use typically means up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.2 This might be a standard beer (12 fluid ounces) or two, or a standard glass of wine (five fluid ounces) or two.

If you are dealing with a mental illness that may be driving you to want to drink, get professional help. Cognitive-behavioral therapy and traditional talk psychotherapy can help you unpack your triggers and find healthier coping mechanisms.

Addiction Treatment: How to Stop the Cycle of Alcohol Abuse

Addiction treatment is available. Consider inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation facilities, support groups, therapy, holistic health programs, and medication-assisted addiction treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about what’s right for you, and explore your options.

Why Does Alcohol Make You Drunk?

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol comes in a variety of different forms. The type of alcohol related to spirits or drinking is made from ethanol or ethyl alcohol. Ethanol is the fermentation of sugar, yeast, and starch and contains fruit, grains, sugar, and other ingredients. 

Ethyl alcohol is one of four different types of alcohol but is the only one that’s safe to consume if done so in small or moderate doses.

Despite it being safe to consume responsibly, it is still an intoxicating agent. Many people consume it for its intoxicating features, as well as for its taste.

When used in moderation, drinking alcohol is enjoyable and relatively harmless. However, if over-consumed, alcohol can trigger dependence and a variety of different diseases and social and economic problems.

Binge drinking and frequent drunkenness are both signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

What Ingredient in Alcohol Makes You Drunk?

Drunkenness is one of the side effects of consuming too much alcohol. The ethanol content in alcohol causes it.

Ethanol molecules are a byproduct of plant fermentation, which occurs when yeast ferments the sugar in the plant material used to create the beverage.

For example:

How Alcohol Travels Through Your Body

Initially, alcohol has a stimulating effect, but it is a depressant. The effects of alcohol begin the moment you start drinking. The more you drink, the more intense feelings you’ll experience.

Alcohol travels through your body along the following path:


A small amount of alcohol enters your bloodstream as soon as it comes in contact with your tongue and other soft tissue in your mouth.

Small Intestine and Stomach

About a fifth of the alcohol you consume enters your bloodstream through the stomach. The remaining amount reaches your bloodstream through the small intestine. This is the reason why the food you eat before and while drinking affects drunkenness. 

Food helps with the absorption of alcohol in the stomach. It also affects the amount of time it takes for alcohol to reach your bloodstream, which is why drinking on an empty stomach is riskier than drinking with or after a meal.


Once alcohol is in the bloodstream, it’s moved through the body quickly. This causes a variety of side effects, including flushed skin, a decrease in body temperature, and a drop in blood pressure.

Brain and Nervous System

Alcohol reaches your brain within about 5 to 10 minutes. Most people feel happy, more confident, and more social at this point. Their inhibitions drop. This is all caused by the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. 

As you consume more, alcohol interferes with your brain’s communication channels and depresses the central nervous system (CNS). At this stage, people experience loss of coordination, blurred vision, dizziness, and slowed speech.


The brain produces the antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which tells your kidneys how much water to conserve. When you drink alcohol, ADH production is limited. This causes the kidneys to release more water, which is why you need to use the bathroom so often when consuming alcohol. Not consuming enough non-alcohol fluid when drinking and urinating more often leads to dehydration.


Many people are surprised to learn their lungs are affected when they drink alcohol. About 2 to 5 percent of the alcohol you drink is expelled via breath, urine, or sweat. This is why people smell like alcohol after a night of drinking and it’s why breathalyzers can measure your level of drunkenness.


The liver is responsible for oxidizing most of the alcohol you drink. It converts it to water and carbon monoxide. The liver is limited in how much it’s able to oxidize, which is why drinking fast raises your blood alcohol content and puts you at risk for alcohol poisoning. If you drink more than your liver can oxidize, you’re at risk.

Why Does Alcohol Make You Drunk?

Ethanol passes throughout your body via the digestive system and the bloodstream and passes through cell membranes.

In your brain, it depresses the central nervous system and triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin. It binds to glutamate, which is a neurotransmitter and prevents it from acting. This makes the brain slower to respond. Ethanol also binds to and activates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which makes you feel calm and sleeping.

In addition to the effects alcohol has on everyone’s body, your drunkenness is also affected by age, gender, and weight. 

How Does Alcohol Affect The Body?

Alcohol affects your body in a variety of ways, especially when you consume a lot of it. For example:

Physical Effects of Alcohol

In small doses, alcohol is mildly sedating and might affect your coordination. As you drink more, your speech slurs and you have trouble walking. Your body is slower to respond. Many people vomit, get dizzy, or experience blurred vision.

Mental Effects of Alcohol 

In addition to the physical effects of alcohol that other people can see, there are also mental effects of alcohol. People’s personalities change when they drink. Some get happy and confident, while others become aggressive or impulsive. Their emotions intensify and they might be extra affectionate or begin crying.

Despite the stimulating effects of alcohol, it is considered a depressant. This is because it slows the central nervous system (CNS). This is the area of the brain and spinal cord responsible for controlling motor function, regulating emotions, and reasoning.

Alcohol also affects the limbic system, which is the “emotional center” of the brain. It controls our behavior and emotions and helps with forming long-term memories. Alcohol is unlikely to affect your limbic system unless you’ve consumed a significant amount.

The Health Effects of Alcohol

How Alcohol Changes Your Behavior

Anyone who has been drunk knows that alcohol affects their behavior. Many people say or do things they are unlikely to say or do without a lot of alcohol in their system.

Alcohol affects how you react to your surroundings. It makes you impulsive and reduces your inhibitions. This is why there’s so much risk associated with drinking too much. Consuming alcohol also reduces short-sightedness, which means you’re less likely to notice cues and information about risks around you. 

What Actually Happens to Your Brain When You Get Drunk?

Chemical changes occur in the brain when you’re drunk. In addition to the effect alcohol has on serotonin and dopamine, it also increases norepinephrine. This is a neurotransmitter that causes arousal. 

Researchers believe this increase is linked to why drunk people are less inhibited. A drunk brain is more likely to seek pleasure without any consideration of negative consequences. 

Alcohol consumption triggers decreased activity in certain regions of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex and the temporal cortex. These regions are responsible for decision-making, rationalizing, prevention of aggressive behavior, and forming new memories. 

There is also a decrease in energy consumption in the cerebellum when someone drinks alcohol. This is the area of the brain that coordinates motor activity. This is why it’s difficult for drunk people to walk in a straight line or drive. 

Do Different Alcoholic Drinks Cause Different Drunk Feelings?

Ethanol is the cause of drunkenness, no matter the alcoholic beverage. Certain drinks might make you drunker due to a higher alcohol content.

However, any perceived difference in drunkenness is due to preconceived notions about different types of alcohol. It’s always ethanol, no matter whether you’re drinking beer, wine, or hard liquor.

If you feel different when you drink an ethanol-equivalent amount of wine and tequila, and you react differently, it’s your stereotypes about the alcohol. 

You might perceive wine as relaxing and tequila as energizing and great for a party, but the chemical effect in your brain is the same regardless of whether you drink wine or tequila.

How Do Hangovers Occur? 

Hangovers are caused by the secondary effects of alcohol. For example, alcohol is dehydrating, which causes hangover symptoms such as headaches and fatigue. After drinking a moderate to high amount of alcohol, you’ll feel a variety of unpleasant symptoms the next day.

Other hangover symptoms include:

Hangover symptoms vary from person to person, regardless of the amount of alcohol consumed. Hangovers also tend to increase in severity as people age. Time is the only way to “cure” a hangover, but the following help to ease the symptoms:

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

If alcohol use is interfering with your life or you prioritize alcohol over other things in your life, treatment can help.

Alcohol misuse and addiction treatment is available in a variety of forms, including: