What does it do?

How does alcohol work?
What does the user feel?

How does alcohol work?

  • Alcohol is passed into the blood through the stomach and intestines. The bloodstream carries alcohol to everywhere in the body. Alcohol numbs, or anaesthetises, mainly by affecting the transmission of signals in the nerves and brain.
  • Alcohol leaves the body largely because the liver breaks it down. This process takes about an hour and a half, and cannot be speeded up by drinking coffee or eating something. It doesn't matter whether someone has been drinking beer or a spirit like gin; the percentage of alcohol in gin is higher, but the serving is much smaller. 
  • The more alcohol someone has drunk in a short time, the higher the concentration in the blood and the more pronounced its effects. With spirits the effect is felt more quickly because the higher percentage of alcohol (about 35%) enters the bloodstream more quickly. 
  • Alcohol drunk on an empty stomach will enter the bloodstream more quickly and directly than when it is consumed with or after food; the alcohol concentration in the blood rises more rapidly and the effect is thus stronger.
  • The effect of alcohol is not the same for everyone. This has partly to do with weight and the proportion of water in the body. The less water, the more of an effect alcohol has, since its concentration in the blood will rise faster. A person weighing 50 kilos has less fluid in their body than someone weighing 100 kilos, and will thus feel the effects of alcohol sooner. Alcohol will take effect more quickly on women, since on average they weigh less and have more water in their bodies than men.
  • Another difference in effect is apparent in people who drink regularly. The body gets used to alcohol within a short time, so more alcohol is soon needed to achieve the same effect. However, the body does not get used to all the effects; for example, its negative effect on one's ability to react is not lessened with time.

What does the user feel?

  • After one or two drinks, alcohol seems to have a stimulating effect. This is because the anaesthetic removes certain inhibitions. The drinker is more easily relaxed, feels more comfortable and behaves in a more uninhibited way. On the other hand, people can actually feel more depressed, anxious or aggressive after drinking alcohol.
  • Alcohol removes inhibitions even more when it is used in combination with stimulant drugs, since they counteract the suppressing effects of alcohol. The combination of alcohol and drugs has unpredictable effects and is therefore very risky.
  • There are already physical reactions after a few drinks. The ability to control fine movements is impaired, reaction time increases and the senses of sight, hearing and taste are dulled.
  • After 3 to 5 drinks, perception of one's own behaviour is less acute and self-criticism decreases. This is why people who have drunk too much feel confident they can still drive, when in fact they can't.
  • If someone keeps drinking, they begin to feel 'tipsy' and they may become emotional. Self-criticism decreases even more, the face flushes and speaking becomes difficult.
  • If the person drinks even more they become inebriated. They have great difficulty keeping their balance, may lose consciousness and may not remember the evening's events in the morning. After an often restless and short sleep, the hangover awaits, with headache, burning acid stomach, queasiness and dryness in the mouth.