Date: July 17, 2019

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Alcohol and Your Body

This page was reviewed or revised on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 11:39 AM

Alcohol affects the body in many different ways, and the effects of alcohol differ from person-to-person, male to female. It directly influences the stomach, brain, heart, gallbladder, and liver. It also alters mood, concentration, and coordination.

While drinking may provide health benefits for certain groups of people, do not start to drink, or increase your drinking, for health benefits. Watch a short video about alcohol and health.

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is one of the world's oldest known drugs. Fermented grain, fruit juice and honey have been used to make alcohol (ethyl alcohol or ethanol) for thousands of years. Today, alcohol products are big business. Rates of consumption and abuse of alcohol are a major public health concern.

Alcohol directly influences the stomach, brain, heart, gallbladder, and liver. It also alters mood, concentration, and coordination. People who overdrink may be confused and disoriented. It can make someone very friendly and talkative, sad, tired and pass out, or very aggressive and angry. Alcohol slows reaction times. They may act totally out of character.

Too much alcohol can lead to some familiar and unpleasant feelings the next day: headache, upset stomach and fatigue. A hangover may be the least of your worries.

Alcohol Poisoning

When large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short period of time the blood alcohol content exceeds what the body can handle and alcohol poisoning can result.

Alcohol poisoning is exactly as it sounds. The body becomes poisoned by alcohol. Vomiting is the body's first reaction to alcohol poisoning. Other symptoms include:

  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Unconsciousness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dangerously low blood sugar
  • Seizures
  • Death

Alcohol in the Body

  • As soon as the first drink is swallowed, alcohol travels to the stomach and small intestine.
  • 90% of the alcohol goes into the blood; 10% leaves the body quickly (breath, sweat/ urine).
  • When alcohol hits the brain, thinking and movement slows down instantly.
  • How much you drink and the alcohol content depends on how the brain is affected.
  • If the alcohol level in the blood is too high, a person may pass out. Because alcohol slows all body functions, breathing will slow and could cause death.

‘Sobering’ Up

Cold showers, walking, black coffee, fresh air or vomiting will not sober a person. Time is the only cure. It takes the liver about one (1) hour to break down and clear one (1) standard drink. After a night of heavy drinking, some people may have a blood alcohol level the next day that is over the legal limit to drive.