The effects of alcohol vary from person to person, but women are more susceptible than men.
Alcoholic drinks – beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, rum, etc. – have intoxicating qualities and come under the category of ‘depressants’. Depressants, which also include various kinds of drugs, stimulate the brain to some extent and also adversely affect the central nervous system, slowing it down and causing unpleasant side effects. One of the foremost effects of alcohol is breaking down inhibitions and this is the reason for its enormous popularity on the social scene. Women are generally more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol than men, even when the exact same amount is consumed by both.
The effects of alcohol vary from person to person. As mentioned, women are more susceptible than men, but the extent to which alcohol acts on your body and causes intoxication also depends upon –
* Your age, size, weight, genetic and family background, habit of drinking and extent of drinking, and state of health.
* The amount of alcohol you have consumed.
* If you have consumed alcohol on an empty stomach, which increases chances of intoxication.
* If you have consumed alcohol after a meal, which will affect you to a lesser extent.
* If you have downed too many drinks too quickly, which can cause a steep rise in blood alcohol levels (concentration of alcohol in blood ) and lead to blackouts.
This is what happens inside your body when you drink alcohol:
* After it is absorbed by your stomach, the alcohol enters your bloodstream, permeates through cell membranes and reaches all the tissues of your body.
* In the liver, the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase and acetaldehyde dehydrogenase respectively break the alcohol down into acetaldehyde and acetic acid and covert these in turn to fats and carbon dioxide and water. When you consume too much alcohol, you make the liver’s work twice as hard and soon it is unable to keep up. So toxins build up, causing jaundice, and fatty acids build up, forming plaques in the capillaries around liver cells and killing the liver cells. This leads to liver cirrhosis.
* In the brain, the alcohol stimulates the brain cortex, the hippocampus and the nucleus accumbens. As these regions control the thinking and pleasure-seeking functions, your judgment will become impaired.
* The NMDA receptor of the brain, which controls learning and memory, is also affected by the alcohol, leading to ‘memory blanks’. Delirium, hallucinations, convulsions, cardiac arrhythmia and permanent brain damage can follow.
* Alcohol causes dehydration leading to hangovers. You will suffer from a dry mouth, headache, nausea and over-sensitivity to light and noise. Unless you remember to drink plenty of water along with your alcoholic drinks. Few alcoholics do.
Short term effect of alcohol on your body:
* Brings about a feeling of relaxation. The dehydration, headache, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue come later.
* Produces euphoria and confidence, along with flushing, short attention span,
impaired judgment, and affected movements.
* You will feel sleepy and befuddled, will forget things, will lose control over your limbs, and suffer from a blurry vision and a marked sensory loss.
Long term effect of alcohol on your body:
* You will feel disoriented, get overly emotional or overly withdrawn, suffer from impaired vision, speech and awareness, show poor coordination, and suffer nausea and vomiting. People have been known to die asphyxiating on their own vomit.
* Your movements will become more impaired, you will lose control over bodily functions and you can fall unconscious, even go into a coma. You can die from alcohol poisoning.
* Your reflexes and breathing will slow down, and your heart rate will drop sharply.
* Your central nervous system collapses and you will die.
Other effects brought about by long-term drinking are as follows:
* Many alcoholics suffer from thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency which leads to the Wernicke encephalopathy, which in turn leads to the Korsakoff psychosis disorder. The former causes short-term mental confusion, nerve paralysis and muscle coordination problems, but the latter causes permanent difficulties with learning, remembering and coordination.
* Permanent damage to the cerebellum and loss of cognitive skills.
* Permanent liver damage, leading to liver cirrhosis.
* Liver damage, in turn, produces toxic levels of ammonia and manganese, and this can lead to a brain disorder called hepatic encephalopathy, which affects sleep, moods, produces anxiety and depression, causes memory loss, brings about tremors and eventually leads to a fatal coma.
* If you are pregnant, the effects of alcohol will bring about the fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) in your developing child. This will adversely and permanently affect your child’s physical and mental abilities.
* If you are over-weight, drinking alcohol will excerberate your weight issues.
* Alcohol can cause your blood pressure to shoot up, weaken your immune system and increase your risk of cancer.
So, you know, think twice before you drink to ‘fit in’. On the whole, maybe you will be better off not being a round peg in a round hole and would do well to stay square.