As alcohol enters your brain and begins to interact with the chemicals that control your mood and actions, you may begin to feel relaxed, more sociable and less inhibited (1). For many people who drink alcohol moderately, these sensations are among the key reasons for doing so (2).
Since alcohol acts on the brain’s pleasure centres, when drinking is moderate, it can be enjoyable. For healthy adults, drinking moderately can fit within a balanced lifestyle, and keeping your drinking within recommended guidelines (3) will help you avoid harm. It’s worth considering, though, that even light drinking may not be advisable for some people.
If you continue to drink more, positive feelings will begin to give way to a less pleasant and more dangerous sensation. Alcohol begins to act as a depressant and, as your blood alcohol content goes up, relaxation can quickly give way to intoxication(1). How rapidly this happens depends on several factors – how much and how quickly you drink, of course, is key, and your height, weight and the amount of food in your stomach also plays a role. But your individual traits and how your body processes alcohol also play an important part (4-8).
The more you drink and the more intoxicated you become, the less in control you’ll feel of your thoughts and actions (8). Your speech will become slurred and you’ll lose coordination and balance. While you may not always realise it, you won’t be thinking clearly and may make poor choices that can cause harm to yourself and other people. And, depending on how much you’ve been drinking, you may not remember what happened the following day.
Drinking excessively may eventually make you pass out and, at very high levels, there’s a risk of alcohol poisoning that can cause you to stop breathing and kill you. That’s why it’s best to know the effect your drinking can have and learn how to be responsible.