What happens when someone has an alcoholic drink?
Body watch shows you what happens to an adult’s body and behaviour.
But remember that the same amount of alcohol would have a much bigger effect on a child or a young person.
Too much alcohol acts a depressant on the brain, the control centre of the body. It can make the drinker feel happy for a little while, but that’s followed by a depressing low. Long-term drinking can kill off brain cells and lead to memory loss and mental problems.
After a few drinks, it can be easy for someone to lose their head. They may feel more relaxed, emotional and uninhibited, but they also lose control. Their judgement is affected too. They might make a fool of themselves, get into trouble, cause an accident or do something they regret later if they drink too much.
Alcohol draws water out of the brain. So, as the body starts to break down alcohol, the drinker may feel dizzy and be in for a throbbing headache if they drink too much from being dehydrated.
Drinking alcohol affects co-ordination and judgement that’s why people who’ve been drinking are more likely to have an accident or get into an argument or fight.
Too much alcohol dehydrates the body, which is bad news for the skin and complexion. It also dilates the blood vessels under the surface of the skin, leading to ugly veins on the nose and cheeks if you drink heavily.
Too much alcohol dilates blood vessels in the eyes, so they can look red and ‘bloodshot’. It also affects the signals sent from the eyes to the brain – vision becomes blurred, and distances and speeds get harder to judge. Many road accidents involve drivers or pedestrians who have alcohol in their blood.
After drinking a lot of alcohol, a person can find it harder to hear sounds or where they’re coming from. This means they can’t react properly to what’s happening around them. This is one reason why so many accidents involving pedestrians happen when they’ve been drinking.
Alcohol suppresses REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. It’s the most important phase of sleep so drinking a lot can ruin the chance of a good night’s rest.
Alcohol lowers the amount of some essential nutrients in the body, like the mineral zinc. Too little zinc can eventually lead to hair loss.
Alcohol is loaded with calories (only fat contains more calories per gram) and binge drinking increases a person’s appetite, so it can lead to weight gain.
Drinking large quantities of alcohol over a short period can cause irregular heartbeats and shortness of breath. This can lead to feelings of panic, high blood pressure and sweating. If you are an adult, drinking within the daily guidelines is fine if you are ‘heart healthy’
Alcohol is absorbed from the stomach into the bloodstream. Alcohol irritates the stomach, so it can lead to nausea, cramps, abdominal pain and diarrhoea if you drink a lot. It’s often a good idea for someone to eat something before they drink – it slows down the absorption of alcohol into the blood.
Alcohol is also excreted as smelly body odour and bad breath – not great for attracting a partner!
Drinking too much alcohol can affect performance in the bedroom because the drinker’s not fully in control of their body. Alcohol affects judgement too, so people may have unsafe sex or sex they later regret.
Alcohol affects co-ordination and balance. A simple walk in a straight line becomes difficult, never mind crossing a road or riding a bike, so accidents can happen more easily if someone’s drunk too much alcohol.
Drinking alcohol can make a person feel uncoordinated and unbalanced, so they’re much more likely to knock things over, drop things or have an accident. In England, a NHS survey found that 22% of admissions to hospital accident and emergency departments are linked to alcohol and 22% of accidental deaths are too.
Alcohol slows down reaction times even after the first drink – that’s why people should never drink before driving or operating machinery.
The liver breaks down most of the alcohol a person drinks. (The rest leaves the body in breath, urine and sweat.) But it can only break down about 1 unit (8g) of alcohol an hour in an average adult. Because the liver is the main organ breaking down alcohol, it’s often the first part of the body to be harmed by heavy drinking, Long term drinking kills off liver cells that can lead to alcoholic liver disease or liver cancer.
Now you’ve read the facts, take a challenge in the challenge zone.
Need to brush up your knowledge a bit more first? Click here to learn more.