What Does Being Drunk Feel Like?
Alcohol use is widely accepted today. According to the NSDUH, 86% of Americans 18 and older drink. Despite how many people drink, very few know the specifics of what happens to the brain while drunk.
The effects of alcohol can be extremely dangerous. If you’ve never been drunk, it can be hard to understand what it feels like and why it becomes so addictive. There are different stages to being drunk. The speed at which a person enters into those stages depends on tolerance and the amount consumed.
What Does Drinking Too Much Feel Like?
Everyone is affected differently by alcohol. Some people are more likely to get sick or feel the effects of being drunk sooner than others. Factors such as age, sex, tolerance, body size, amount of food eaten, and whether other drugs have been used can all affect a person’s state of mind while drinking.
These stages and the amount of alcohol that it takes to get to them can indicate if a person is abusing alcohol or not. Someone who has consistently participated in extreme amounts of drinking will have a higher tolerance. It will take more for them to reach their desired state of mind and to satiate the body and the brain’s cravings.
The Stages of Drinking
Alcohol can have slightly different effects depending on how much someone drinks. As alcohol intake increases, the phases of “drunkenness” can follow a progression which most often exhibits:
You begin by feeling euphoric as alcohol enters the bloodstream and promotes the release of dopamine in the brain. This is the feeling that most people want when drinking. As tolerance increases, it can be harder and harder to reach. At this stage, you may feel “tipsy” and have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.03% to 0.12%.
During the depressive phase, also known as the excitement phase, you begin to display signs of uncontrollable emotional highs, loss of coordination and judgment. You may also begin to feel tired. This is the period where many people continue drinking in excess to get rid of drowsiness since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. At this point, you are considered drunk with a BAC of 0.09% to 0.25%.
You are unable to control your movements and emotions and may feel confused or find it difficult to stand. The confusion stage is where many blackout and lose time. The body is unable to feel pain, placing you at an increased risk for life-threatening injury. BAC is now 0.18% to 0.30%.
Reaching this stage of intoxication is extremely dangerous. Your body begins to lose its ability to function correctly. You may become unresponsive and your body loses its ability to rid itself of the alcohol. Seizures may happen or the skin might appear blue or pale as the body is unable to circulate blood. You will have trouble breathing and may choke on your own vomit. BAC will be at 0.25% to 0.40%.
When the body is unable to excrete alcohol, all functions will slow. You will slip into a critically unresponsive state or coma. At this point, with a BAC of 0.35% to 0.45%, it is vital that you receive medical attention or else you will die.
At a BAC level of 0.45 or greater, severe damage is sustained to the internal organ systems. Your entire body will shut down and you will die.
Dangers of Getting Drunk
The physical effects of alcohol are depressive and interrupt the normal function of body systems. The symptoms vary depending on the system affected, including:
- Relaxed Blood Vessels
- Lowered Blood Pressure
- Increased Heart Rate
- Increased Breathing Rate
The more common effects happen in the brain as alcohol impacts the way we think and behave.
- Impaired Coordination
- Reduced Motor Control
- Slowed Reaction Time
- Impaired Memory
- Impaired Vision
- Increased Happiness and Sense of Calm
- Decreased inhibitions making people appear to have more fun or become more outgoing.
- Increased risk-taking behaviors such as driving drunk, fighting, stealing, or anonymous sex.
The Science Behind Alcohol and The Brain
When you consume alcohol, it is absorbed through the stomach lining and into the bloodstream. From that first sip, it takes only five minutes to reach your brain where feel-good endorphins are released. These work to ease stress and anxiety, reduce feelings of pain, and boost mood. Alcohol also increases GABA, which calms the brain, and decreases glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter. These neurotransmitters cause the depressive effects of alcohol. When someone drinks for long enough, imbalances of these neurotransmitters can arise within the brain.
The release of these endorphins is focused within the portion of the brain that influences addiction. If alcohol is consumed in large enough quantities, or for long periods of time, those feel-good responses trigger feelings of pleasure and reward. This can increase the desire for alcohol, leading to addiction. The reward center in the brain is also activated when users drink to minimize negative withdrawal effects. The brain is trained to depend on alcohol for the production of those feel-good endorphins. And the more alcohol that is consumed, the higher the brain’s tolerance can be for reaching those “positive” effects. More and more alcohol is needed before the brain’s reward center is satisfied.
What Happens As My Tolerance Increases?
When people drink, all their different physical and genetic factors combine with how much they are drinking and how quickly. This determines BAC level and the phases of drinking at which the brain and the body enters. The person who is only drinking a little each hour is better able to filter the alcohol out of the blood. This allows them to either maintain a certain level of intoxication or give their body a chance to get rid of the alcohol.
When a person begins to consume larger amounts at a faster pace, their body is not able to filter it out as effectively. This may cause them to pass through euphoric and depressive phases rather quickly and enter into more dangerous levels of intoxication. If this pattern of drinking continues for long periods of time, the body is going to adapt to the levels of alcohol consumed. At the same time, the structure and function of nerves within the brain are going to change.
The danger for people with an alcohol abuse disorder lies in the fact that their body and brain require more and more alcohol to feel euphoric or pleasurable. The damage sustained to the liver and kidneys each time excessive amounts are consumed will make it so that the body has a difficult time expelling the toxins. This can lead to faster movements through each drinking phase and close proximity to coma and death.
When someone comes down from alcohol consumption, typically the next morning, a hangover is often the result. Through a combination of unpleasant physical symptoms (headache and vomiting), and an increase in anxiety and depression, a person will experience an aversion to these side effects which may result in continued drinking.
Hangovers will only worsen the longer alcohol is used since the brain’s regulation processes will make hangover side effects more pronounced over time.
Because of the brain’s dependence on alcohol, it can be difficult and painful to try and get sober on your own. Depending on the amount consumed and length at which someone has been drinking, stopping suddenly can cause severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms like seizures, delirium, brain damage, or even death. It is important to seek professional and medical help when deciding that it’s time to get sober. The first week is the most difficult as far as the severity of withdrawal symptoms goes. This is the period of time where most people relapse. With the help of our Georgia alcohol detox centers and therapy services, we can help to provide a treatment that gets you through those first weeks easier with a goal of long-term recovery.
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We’d love the opportunity to help you during this overwhelming and difficult process. The Summit Wellness Group is located in Georgia and all of your calls will be directed to one of our local staff members. Our sincere passion is helping people recover so that they can live full, meaningful and healthy lives.
Call us 24/7 at 770-299-1677. If we aren’t the right fit for you then we’ll utilize our expertise and connections within the treatment industry to assist you in finding the best provider for your specific needs. Alternatively you can fill out our contact form and a member of our staff will contact you shortly.