What happens when you drink?

How alcohol affects you in the short-term

Since alcohol reaches every part of your body, including your brain, its effects are both mental and physical. These effects include changes to how you feel and how you interact with others. The mental and physical effects of alcohol increase the more you drink.

For most people, moderate drinking produces a feeling of relaxation, reduced inhibitions, increased sociability and in-group identity; On the other hand, even moderate drinking will produce a slowing of reaction time.  These changes come primarily from the effects of the alcohol on the brain.

As people drink more, their BAC level increases, and the mental and physical effects of drinking intensify. The individual who drinks to excess becomes increasingly intoxicated or “drunk.” As one’s BAC rises, the “intoxicated” person becomes less aware of surroundings, speech becomes slurred, vision may be blurred, balance is unstable, reaction time is slowed, and, above all, the ability to make good judgments may be impaired. The person may vomit as the body tries to rid itself of dangerous amounts of alcohol. Intoxicated people are at higher risk of getting hurt in accidents and through injuries or hurting someone else.

At very high BAC levels, people can be at risk of choking on their own vomit, become poisoned by the alcohol they drank, their breathing and heartbeat are slowed, they may fall into a coma, and they may die if they are not treated promptly by a competent healthcare provider.

Moderate drinkers and those around them may experience the pleasure and sociability of enjoying a drink with others. Excessive drinkers, however, create problems not only for themselves but also for others, since they increasingly lose awareness of how their negative physical and emotional behaviors affect those around them.