You and alcohol

What do you feel?

What does alcohol do to you?
What are the dose dependant effects of alcohol?

What does alcohol do to you?

Alcohol has an sedative or depressant effect.
You can feel the effect when you drink – you’re less sensitive to pain, and you don’t hear, see or taste as well. The sedative effect also applies to your feelings and emotions. In addition alcohol depresses brain functions, reducing your ability to judge situations, yourself and others accurately. That’s why it’s often said that alcohol makes you lose your inhibitions. You’ll do things when under the influence that you wouldn’t normally do. This effect has its advantages. You make contact with people more easily, feel more sure of yourself, are less bothered by guilt or shame, worry less, get to sleep more easily, enjoy sex more. However, there’s also the risk that you can become dependent on alcohol.

By ‘using’ alcohol to help you sleep, stop worrying so much, for example, you run the risk of making it a habit. If you quit drinking you’ll have to find another way of coping with these problems. Indeed, if you’ve ‘solved’ these problems in this way for a long time, you may not think there’s any other way of dealing with them.

What are the dose dependant effects of alcohol? 

The alcohol you drink is taken up by your blood. Your liver breaks alcohol down. It takes about an hour and a half before the alcohol in one unit (what is a unit?) has been processed by your liver.

Because alcohol is transported to all the organs of the body through the blood this can lead to physical problems over the long term.

The short-term effects of alcohol are described below. It is assumed that all the alcohol is drunk within 1 hour.

  • After the first drink your body reacts with a faster heartbeat and breathing, and you feel warm. You feel, smell, taste and see less acutely. You have more appetite and a stronger urge to urinate. You feel somewhat more relaxed and find it easier to strike up a conversation. If you’re used to drinking, you’ll notice that you may feel more like another drink.
  • If you keep drinking (about 5 units in an hour for women, and up to 7 for men) its numbing effects will be obvious on your natural inhibitions as well as your senses. Your mood and behaviour become more effusive and extroverted. You may become more cheerful and friendly, or more irritable and ‘direct’ or blunt. You can become overconfident in your abilities, and think you can do more than you really can, such as driving a car. You speak more loudly, partly because you can’t hear as well. Your reaction time, memory and judgement of situations are impaired. Your movements become clumsier and your peripheral vision is affected, causing ‘tunnel vision’.
  • If you drink more (up to 9 units in an hour for women, and up to 14 for men), these effects are even stronger. Your self-criticism has disappeared and you are exaggerated and emotional: very happy, quick to cry, overly seductive, very angry, or aggressive. Your face gets red, your pupils dilate (enlarge). You may feel nauseous and vomit.
  • If you drink more (up to 13 units in one hour for women, and up to 19 for men) your senses are numbed and you become very confused. What you hear, see and do almost doesn’t register with you. You may lose consciousness (black out), and the next day you may not remember parts of the evening. 
  • If you drink even more in this hour, your life is in danger. There is a risk of losing consciousness and choking on your own vomit. At 5 promille (0.5 percent alcohol in the blood) there is an acute risk of coma and death due to paralysis of the breathing centre in the brain.

If you drink often and in large quantities it will usually take longer before the same effects occur, compared to people who drink less.
This is because you’ve built up tolerance to alcohol. However, the amount of alcohol in your blood is still the same!