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About alcohol

How behaviour changes

Even small quantities of alcohol have effects on the body which are noticeable (particularly in someone who doesn’t drink often or hasn’t done so for some time). It’s surprising how after a single drink – 20-30 minutes later – people can become more relaxed. Problems occur when people don’t take into account the effects of alcohol on behaviour when socialising, or tasks requiring co-ordination such as talking, walking, or driving.

When you are drunk

When you are drunk, you are also more susceptible to assault, non-consensual sex, theft and abuse. Prolonged heavy drinking that stops short of dependence may still cause liver and health problems. Dependence (alcoholism) can cause early death and is a major factor in absenteeism from work, accidents and relationship breakdowns. Changes in behaviour depend on the amount of alcohol reaching the brain, which are determined by several factors apart from the quantity of alcohol drunk.

  • The rate at which the alcohol is drunk.
  • The size of the person, eg: the larger the person the greater the diluting effect of the blood on the alcohol consumed and the more it takes to produce the same effect.
  • Whether alcohol is consumed on an empty stomach or not. The effect will be much more immediate (as little as five minutes) if the stomach is empty. Food in the stomach slows down the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • The size and condition of the liver.

Worst case scenario

Taking into account the above factors, your behaviour from a first to last ever drink might look something like this:

A sense of warmth – friendliness – flushed face – talkativeness – increased social confidence – reaction time slows – further sense of mental relaxation and general well being – trip over words – tendency to be loud and talkative – inhibitions about to jump out the window – confused and disturbed thinking and co-ordination – irritability – reduced self-control – irresponsible talk and behaviour – unsteady on feet – slurred speech – unpredictable, exaggerated emotions or (aggressive) behaviour – extreme confusion and disorientation – difficulty remaining upright – drowsiness – nausea – shitting yourself – delayed or incoherent reaction to questions – coma (a state of deep unconsciousness from which you cannot be aroused) – followed by death.

Your Brain on Drugs: Alcohol | asapSCIENCE | 21 Nov 2012 | 2m13s
What Happens When You're Drunk? | Brit Lab | 28 May 2015 | 5m20s

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