What Happens After Drinking Alcohol?
Alcohol affects virtually every organ system in the body. The main immediate effect is in the brain altering the neuro-transmission system and result in increased endomorphines which explain its euphoric effect. On the other hand it will suppress other systems in the brain which will reduce anxiety, cause drowsiness and makes your motoric movement and reflexes slower. That is why people tend to get into more accidents after drinking.
The increased opiate receptors in the brain plus the euphoric calming effect commonly is the reason for alcohol craving, leading to tolerance, needing a higher dose to get the effect. The end result is alcohol dependency.
After prolonged drinking your body will develop changes. When the person stops drinking, the opposite happens, ie. the brain becomes excited. This leads to withdrawal symptoms, such as tremors, hallucination and inability to sleep.
When someone drinks too much alcohol in a short period, intoxication can develop. The brain depression effects can be so strong, causing unconsciousness or coma and can stop breathing. Without medical intervention, this will lead to death.
Long Term Complications
- Liver disorders. Alcohol needs to be metabolized before it can be excreted. Liver is the main organ for alcohol metabolism. Drinking heavily will overwork the liver, which can cause alcoholic hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver. After years of drinking, hepatitis may lead to the irreversible and progressive destruction and scarring of liver tissue (cirrhosis).
- Digestive problems. Alcohol can result in inflammation of the lining of the stomach (gastritis) and can interfere with absorption of B vitamins and other nutrients. Heavy drinking can also damage your pancreas, which produces the hormones that regulate your metabolism and the enzymes that help digest fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
- Heart problems. Excessive drinking can lead to high blood pressure and increases your risk of heart failure or stroke.
- Diabetes complications. Alcohol interferes with the release of glucose from your liver and can increase the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). This is dangerous if you have diabetes and are already taking insulin to lower your blood sugar level.
- Sexual function and menstruation. Alcohol abuse can cause erectile dysfunction in men. In women, it can interrupt menstruation.
- Eye problems. Over time, excessive alcohol use can cause weakness and paralysis of your eye muscles.
- Birth defects. Alcohol use during pregnancy may cause fetal alcohol syndrome, resulting in giving birth to a child who has physical and developmental problems.
- Bone loss. Alcohol may interfere with the production of new bone. This can lead to thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) and an increased risk of fractures.
- Neurological complications. Excessive drinking can affect your nervous system, causing numbness of your hands and feet, disordered thinking, dementia and short-term memory loss.
- Increased risk of cancer. Chronic alcohol abuse has been linked to a higher risk of numerous cancers, including mouth, throat, liver, colon and breast cancer.
A drink is defined as one 12-oz (355 ml) beer, one 5-oz (148 ml) glass of wine, or one mixed drink containing 1.5 oz (44 ml) of spirits (80-proof).
Drinking in a moderate amount is considered safe. This is defined as drinking no more than 1 drink/day for women or no more than 2 drinks/day for men.
Avoid binge drinking, ie. 5 or more drinks on a single occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on a single occasion for women, generally within about 2 hours. This leads to hazardous immediate effects, not only to the person who is drinking but also to bystanders.
If someone you know or you yourself are starting to develop alcohol dependency, or you think moderate drinking is not enough for you, talk to your doctor for ways to treat them early and avoid the complications from prolonged drinking. Saving your life can also save someone else’s life.