The Stages of Being Drunk
You go out for “one” drink with friends. You wake up with your shoes on next to half of a bacon-wrapped hot dog. You do this every weekend. Let’s let science explain the whole process….
Or off down the pub for a quiet pint.
Or two…or three…
1. When you drink, the alcohol is mostly absorbed through the walls of your small intestine and dispersed around your body by your blood.
How quickly it’s absorbed depends on how much you’ve had to drink and whether you’ve eaten.
2. Some of the alcohol will reach your brain.
And affect the neurotransmitters — glutamate and GABA — that your brain cells use to communicate.
3. Communication between your neurons becomes slower. So you notice less of what is going on around you.
4. Your thoughts are fine-tuned and clarified, thanks to an increase in the neurotransmitter GABA.
5. So you’re thinking very clearly, about not very much. Which is probably what leads to…
6. As your blood alcohol concentration increases, you might start slurring your words a little and have trouble with balance, coordination, and attention.
7. With more alcohol, all of those things get worse. And you’ll end up forgetting your drunken escapades the next day.
Which may or may not be the for the best.
8. And of course your decision-making skills might not be up to scratch at this point.
9. But it’s not all bad! Drinking a little before bed has been shown to help you get to sleep faster, and increase deep sleep in the first half of the night.
10. Though it does mean you sleep more lightly andwake more frequently during the second half of the night.
11. And the next day? UGH HANGOVER.
Dehydration, alcohol withdrawal, and the toxins created when your liver breaks down alcohol all play a part in causing you to feel rubbish after a big night out.
12. When you drink, your body gets rid of more fluid than usual, hence the dehydration (and huge bathroom queues in clubs and at festivals).
13. Alcohol causes your blood vessels to expand. Hello, headaches.
It also irritates your stomach lining. Yuck.
14. The alcohol you drink is broken down in your liver, making a toxin called acetaldehyde. If you pace your drinking, acetaldehyde is broken down pretty much straight away.
By two helpful chemicals: acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and glutathione. Yay for them.
15. If you drink too much, your body can’t process all the acetaldehyde, so it builds up. Leading to this.
Headaches and nausea and vomiting, oh my.
16. The good news is there are some things you can do to ease a hangover. First, make sure you stay hydrated.
One glass of water per alcoholic drink is a good rule. If you can’t manage that, at least down a glass before bed.
17. Darker drinks like whisky contain more toxins known as congeners, a by-product of fermentation, which will make your hangover worse. Best stick to vodka.
18. Your blood sugar may be low, so have a decent breakfast the morning after.
19. Better still, eat something before you start drinking.
Fats will help slow the absorption of alcohol.
20. Hair of the dog will alleviate your symptoms for a while, but all you’re really doing is putting off the inevitable.
And your eventual hangover will likely be worse, because you’re making yourself more dehydrated and giving your liver more work to do.
So if you still have a few too many every once in a while…
At least now you’ll know exactly why you feel like you do afterward.
November 10th, 2013