What happens to the body when alcohol enters it? A narcologist tells us

How it all begins

Alcoholic beverages contain the toxic substance ethanol, a monatomic alcohol, a flammable, volatile, colorless liquid. According to the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, ethanol is a narcotic substance that causes alcoholic excitement and, in large doses, depresses central nervous system functions. During the first sip ethanol enters the bloodstream through microscopic vessels in the mouth. The substance is perfectly soluble in water and fats, so it passes instantly through the membranes of any cells.

Literally in 5-10 minutes each organ receives a dose of alcohol. You get the effect of light intoxication. You relax, your mood improves, accumulated problems recede into the background. The stronger the alcohol, the more tangible the effect.


Then the ethanol enters your stomach and if you have eaten before drinking it, it stays there for a while. And if you don't, the entire volume goes on to the small intestine. Through the walls of the stomach, only 20 percent of what you drink enters the bloodstream.


The liver

Next, the ethanol molecule travels to the liver. Here, ethanol interacts with the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase to form the poisonous substance acetaldehyde.

Another enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase, breaks down the toxic acetaldehyde into acetic acid. The liver cells convert it to water and carbon dioxide. A healthy liver processes up to 90% of alcohol, but very slowly - at a rate of 10 grams per hour. That's a mug of beer or a shot of hard liquor. It takes the liver at least 8 hours to process the ethanol in one bottle of red wine.


The ethanol that the liver has not had time to process rushes to other organs.


Blood vessels.

Ethanol clogs the blood vessels by gluing the blood cells - red blood cells. The blood vessels are sealed with clots and prevent oxygen from reaching the internal organs and, most importantly, the brain.



Once in the brain, ethanol disrupts neurotransmitters. These substances transmit electrochemical impulses from the nerve cell to muscle tissue. They are the ones responsible for behavior and emotional responses. In a large dose, you can lose self-control and not even remember your words and actions afterwards.

Alcohol triggers the brain's main inhibitory neurotransmitter - gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and simultaneously slows down the exciter - glutamic acid. That is why at low doses a person feels pleasantly relaxed, and at high doses he feels sleepy.


Ethanol activates the production of endorphin and dopamine. These compounds affect the brain, causing an emotional lift and even euphoria. It's also addictive and the need to constantly increase the dose.


The Heart

Once in the heart, ethanol stimulates it. It begins to distil the blood containing alcohol more quickly. The heart rate increases, because of blood clots in the blood vessels, the blood pressure rises.


Alcohol stays in the body for about 5-7 hours. Its maximum concentration is reached after 1 to 1.5 hours. All this time the heart works hard.



Ethanol affects them as well. After drinking alcohol you often urinate. This way the kidneys try to get rid of toxins. In addition, ethanol interferes with the production of the hormone vasopressin, which is responsible for fluid retention. Because of its deficiency the kidneys begin to work more actively, there is a desire to go to the bathroom.


How long does intoxication last?

The body returns to normal after the liver has completely processed the alcohol. How quickly this happens depends on a combination of factors. Body weight, gender, lifestyle, and heredity all play a role.


The dose of alcohol at which severe intoxication occurs is determined by the ratio of the activity of the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase, inherited from parents.


Genetic characteristics associated with endorphin and dopamine production affect the appearance of addiction. If these hormones are not enough in the body, there is a good chance that the person will become addicted to alcohol.


What then?

If you think that a daily glass of beer at dinner or hard liquor at the weekend does not lead to addiction, then you are mistaken.


Very quickly one bottle of beer or a couple of glasses of wine becomes insufficient and the dose gradually increases.


A friendly weekend drinking binge is like weekly food poisoning. The body simply does not have time to recover from intoxication in a week.


And even a drink once a month is enough to give your body an alcoholic shock.


There is no safe dose of alcohol. It is better to relieve stress without resorting to alcohol. And to increase the production of dopamine and endorphin - with the organization of a comfortable regime of the day, proper diet, sports and a healthy balance between work and rest.


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Hi, my name is Vladimir! I try to give more knowledge and experience with my articles, so that you don't repeat my mistakes. I hope you like my articles)