Why Does Alcohol Make You Drunk

Why Does Alcohol Make You Drunk

People like to drink alcohol for a variety of reasons. To relax, to socialize, because it tastes good...there’s plenty of good reasons out there. But you may wonder, why does alcohol make you drunk? If you’ve ever had a couple drinks, you’ve certainly felt an effect. And if you’ve had quite a few drinks, well, you’ve felt it even more. Probably felt it the next day too. But when it comes to getting drunk, there’s a few things going on.

When we talk about “alcohol”, what we really mean is “ethanol”. That’s the type of alcohol in the drinks we consume, and what makes us drunk. You see, as your body breaks down those tasty alcoholic beverages, ethanol starts to enter your bloodstream. Ethanol is water soluble, so it travels throughout your body with relative ease. As it travels through your body, some of that alcohol ends up going straight up and into your brain, and that’s where things get interesting.

Alcohol has a few effects on your brain, primarily in how the effects it has on a few different neurotransmitters. The first of these is dopamine. The “feel good” transmitter, the release of dopamine is what initially boosts your mood, making you perk up and perhaps even want to hit the dancefloor. Then there’s glutamate. Glutamate helps your nerve cells talk to each other, keeping your reflexes sharp and responsive. Unfortunately, alcohol inhibits glutamate, making you slower to respond (part of why drinking and driving is so dangerous). The last is a transmitter called GABA. GABA makes you calm...and also sleepy. As you can probably guess if you’ve had a few drinks, alcohol boosts the production of GABA.

The more you drink, the more these effects build up. In fact, it’s the combination of these effects that makes over consuming alcohol as dangerous as it is. When someone ends up in the hospital, or even dies, due to alcohol poisoning, what’s really happening is that alcohol is effectively shutting off their brain. The signals telling your lungs to breath, your heart to beat...they simply stop. Or, you try and vomit...but your reflexes are so diminished that the gag reflex doesn’t happen, and you choke to death. Either way, it’s important to know your limits.


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