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Alcohol: What Happens to Your Body?

By: Sam Harrington-Lowe - Updated: 10 Mar 2016 | comments*Discuss
Alcohol Effects Alcoholism Binge

Excessive drinking and binge drinking is never going to be good for you - the odd glass of wine is fine; can even be beneficial in moderation. But long term alcohol abuse will inevitably cause major physical problems.

What happens to the body when you drink depends on how much is drunk of course, but too much will put strain on your organs, and certainly give you a hangover. Below is a breakdown showing what happens to your body on a big night out.

Stage One - Meeting Up and Getting the First Drinks In

The first one or two drinks produce a pleasant effect, the alcohol coursing through your bloodstream and creating a enjoyable feeling in your body. You feel buzzy, full of fun.

This is the booze starting to affect your central nervous system (CNS). This handles all body functions including speech, senses etc. The alcohol also starts to affect the frontal cortex - that part of the brain that controls your behaviour - so you start to lose your inhibitions. As you consume more alcohol, you speak louder, laugh a lot more and chat enthusiastically. You're having great fun. As you drink more, you start to wobble a bit, speech becomes slurred.

A Good Few More Drinks

You keep drinking and the effects are becoming more severe, although you don't realise it. You sweat more, your vision becomes blurred or hazy and senses are really dulled, including pain sensors. As alcohol is a diuretic you urinate often, making you dehydrated, the major factor in tomorrow morning's hangover!

Your body doesn't store alcohol so the liver has to process and expel it somehow. The liver can only metabolise alcohol at the rate of one or two units per hour, so if you're drinking heavily, and not topping up with water occasionally, your body is working super-hard to eliminate the alcohol.

Still Drinking?

More booze at this stage and you really start to slow down. Your reactions are affected, making you sluggish and you're very uncoordinated, probably reeling about and very unsteady on your feet. Possibly falling over. This is also the stage where emotions are uncontrolled, leading to aggression, arguments, violence or tearfulness. It's time to go home.

Falling Asleep

Chances are, unless you vomit at this stage, you're going to crash out pretty quickly, often not even making it to bed but landing on the sofa! But you're really not sleeping properly. Too much alcohol relaxes throat muscles making you snore and disturbing your sleep, but also alcohol affects your sleep rhythms and patterns, meaning you don't get the deep, healthy sleep you need. Plus you're dehydrated, so you wake up feeling tired and ill.

Wakey Wakey!

Oh dear, not feeling too good? You're tired, dehydrated which leads to headaches, and all the sugar in alcohol gives you a sugar 'crash' leading to low glucose levels. If you can eat, you're craving high carb food to bump up those glucose levels. Your tongue is swollen, again due to dehydration, and mouth tastes like nothing on earth because of the sugar.

You're probably still way over the legal limit to drive, as the liver can only process so much alcohol. And aside from this, alcohol irritates the stomach which can lead to retching and heartburn, and affects the bowel, causing diarrhoea.

Alcohol uses up vitamins and minerals in your body, particularly potassium, and this can give you a chronic thirst, muscle cramps and lightheadedness. Being so dehydrated means that just to function properly, the kidneys have had to draw water from other organs and parts of your body, just to flush the alcohol through your system. This stops the kidneys working as efficiently as they should, and the result is that your body produces more toxins than it can handle. You will feel pretty rough.

The Alcoholics Remedy?

It's at this stage the alcoholic will probably reach for a 'hair of the dog', as a way of staving off the results of last night's excesses. Imagine putting your body through that ordeal every day of your life.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
My sister and my father are both functioning alcoholics. My sister is much worse she is a very aggressive alcoholic and gets very very mean. Most days she don't eat she just drinks her day away. I don't know what to do because she don't want help and doesn't think she has a problem at all. She is only 35 and had 4 kids which she lost sure to her alcohol abuse.
shell - 10-Mar-16 @ 8:43 PM
help that's what I nee/d with it.,,so where dowe start ?? ...
rose - 24-Aug-15 @ 12:13 AM
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