Alcohol is absorbed from our stomach and intestines into our bloodstream. The rate varies, depending on a number of factors, including whether we have food in our stomach, our size and gender. Most of the alcohol then goes to our liver, where it’s broken down, though about 10% leaves us through our urine, breath or sweat.
A normal liver will process about 10g of alcohol (that’s one standard drink) in an hour, the rest flows on to our heart. Once we drink more than this, we’re likely to feel the stimulatory effects of alcohol, becoming more relaxed, confident and excitable. If we keep drinking then we are likely to become drowsy.
When the alcohol reaches our brain, it slows the flow of impulses between nerve cells that control our ability to think and move. That’s why our thinking may become fuzzy, our judgment affected, our tongue twisted, our vision blurred and our muscles rubbery.
Alcohol also reduces our brain’s production of antidiuretic hormones, so we need to urinate more often, meaning we lose vitamins and minerals. Dehydration explains hangover symptoms like headaches, light and noise sensitivity, lethargy and thirst.
Drinking too much can also damage your stomach lining, leading to nausea, whilst more extreme consequences include vomiting, memory loss and alcohol poisoning. On top of these potential short term harms, excessive, or longterm, drinking can damage your liver, heart or pancreas. Drinking a lot of alcohol regularly over
time is likely to cause emotional and social problems as well.
It’s therefore important only to drink in moderation, so it remains a pleasurable, convivial and safe experience.