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How does alcohol make you drunk?

Alcohol is a mood altering substance. It affects the nerves that pass messages around the body by slowing them down, and the more you drink the greater the effect. The reason people often get more lively when they’ve had a drink is that alcohol affects parts of the brain responsible for self-control.

As you drink, the alcohol passes into your bloodstream.Ethanol is the intoxicating part of alcohol and its molecules are so small that they can actually pass into the gaps between brain cells. There it can interfere with the neurotransmitters that enable all the brain’s activities. If you drink fast, alcohol will start to flood the brain. Fortunately, alcohol can give some warning signs as itpenetrates into the brain and central nervous system, so if you spot the signs in yourself or a friend, moderate your or their drinking or stop drinking further amounts. The last thing you would want is to lose control, vomit or end up in hospital.

Severe cases of heavy drinking can result in alcoholic poisoning, coma or death.Your reactions also slow down, and as you drink more, you may become uncoordinated or unsteady on your feet. Your speech may get slurred and you may start seeing double. If you’ve had a lot to drink you may also experience strong emotional responses - for instance you may become aggressive or tearful. And becauseyour judgement is impaired, you may do things that you might not normally do - from dancing on tables to going home with strangers. They may seem a good idea at the time, but can be extremely dangerous.

The classic warning signs of drunkenness

  • You feel giddy
  • You start to lose the thread of what you’re saying
  • You feel unsteady on your feet
  • You start seeing double.

Tips to avoid feeling sick or passing out

  • The best advice, of course, is to avoid drinking or to drink within the guidelines to avoid this happening.
  • If someone is planning to drink, they should eat before or while drinking - even a bowl of cereal or a couple of pieces of toast will help. Avoid top ups as it is harder to keep track of what you’re drinking.
  • Pace yourself - having a soft drink between each alcoholic one really helps slow drinking down and gives the body a chance to break down the alcohol consumed.

What are the dangers of drinking to drunkenness?

Drinking to drunkenness increases the risk of ending up in the Accident and Emergency Department (about 20% ofaccidental deaths are alcohol related), getting involved in a fight, not getting home safely, and of being robbed or sexually assaulted.

Regularly binge drinking increases the chances of many long term illnesses such as some cancers, heart disease and haemorrhagic stroke.

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