Alcohol is classified as a suppressant drug however that does not fully explains its effects. People think that alcohol helps them cope with difficult situations and emotions, and that it reduces stress or relieves anxiety. But what does it really do to our body?
As alcohols enter your body and makes their way to your brain, they starts to interact with brain cells and affect the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that communicate information throughout the brain and body). There are two types of neurotransmitter- either excitatory (increase brain electrical activity), or inhibitory, (decrease brain electrical activity.)
1. Alcohols can enhance the effects of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in your brain which means your brain cell activities are slowed down and become less excited. And that’s what causes slow reaction, slurred speech and poor coordination and judgement. You will think very little but with great clarity.
2. The feeling of pleasure when you are taking a drink is created by the increasing amount of the chemical dopamine in the brain's reward centre.
3. Alcohols can also affect the brain’s memory storage area which known as hippocampus. People tend to forget what they did when they were drinking because in fact the memory at this point was never formed properly.
Hippocampus also controls your emotions. As a result you will find that you feel exaggerated emotions for example really happy:D or very depressed :(.
4. It causes dehydration in your body as your kidney tries to eliminate them via urination. And this is why you need the toilet more.
5. At intoxicating levels, alcohol causes blood vessels to relax and widen. At even higher levels, it can shrink the vessels and increase blood pressure, causes condition like migraine headaches.
6. Your body will shut down when it gets overloaded with too much alcohol to metabolise, so your body is constantly digesting, but not getting any energy from the digestion of the alcohol. This results in passing out.
How is alcohol metabolised?
Once alcohol is in your system, your body makes metabolising it a priority because unlike carbohydrate and fat, there is nowhere for alcohol to be stored. Alcohol does not need to be digested like food therefore it can pass quickly and easily into the bloodstream. In general, 20% of the alcohol is absorbed in the stomach and the rest 80% is absorbed in the small intestine. You are more likely to get drunk with an empty stomach as there is nothing between the stomach wall and the alcohol- this increases the rate of alcohol absorption in your body. After the absorption, it dissolves in water and blood which then being carried throughout the rest of your body via blood circulation.
Factors that affects your alcohol tolerance
Gender- Muscle tissue contains more water than fat tissue. As alcohol get diluted in water, a female will reach a higher blood alcohol concentration than a male of the same weight after same amount of alcohol being ingested.
Genetic- Most individuals use a form of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase called ALD2 to metabolize the acetaldehyde which results from alcohol metabolism.However some individual would produce another form of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase due to their genetic code. This is far less efficient at breaking down acetaldehyde than ALD2. The accumulation of acetaldehyde causes rosy cheeks, rapid heartbeat, headaches and vomiting.
Drinking history- Tolerance takes time to build. As a person’s drinking increases, the liver’s capacity of metabolising alcohol would also increase which means this person would be able to handle more drinks than you do.