Many of us know that familiar feeling after having a few drinks. At first, you feel pretty good. You’re relaxed, laughing and having fun. That’s because alcohol triggers the release of endorphins, or “feel good” chemicals, in the brain’s reward centers. You keep on drinking to keep the good feelings going.
Alcohol draws you in and makes you feel good. Until it doesn’t. Soon, you can’t think clearly, you feel bloated, drowsy, uncoordinated, moody. As you keep drinking, the positive effects of alcohol start to fade while the negative effects increase (known as the biphasic effect). What exactly is alcohol doing to your body?
When you drink, alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream and quickly travels throughout your body. Drink too much and your whole body feels the effects.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism outlines what alcohol does to different areas of your body:
Chronic alcohol use can also increase your risk of developing many forms of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, pancreas, breast and colon. Moderate drinking combined with tobacco use can further raise the risk of many cancers.
Alcohol affects each person differently. It’s important to know how much you are drinking and understand the risks. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week for men, and consuming 8 drinks or more per week for women.
Alcohol leaves the body in two ways. About 10 percent leaves through the breath, perspiration and urine. The rest is broken down through metabolism, but the body can only metabolize a certain amount of alcohol per hour. Drink more than your body and can process and you’ll get drunk. Learn more about the stages and effect of alcohol at various breath alcohol concentrations.
Drinking too much alcohol can take a serious toll on your health. Over time, heavy drinking can cause alcohol dependency, or alcoholism. It may be very difficult to gain control. Unlike most other common addictions, acute alcohol withdrawal can be life threatening.
If you or a family member needs help with drug or alcohol addiction, you aren’t alone. Get help for addiction from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.
Parents, talk to your kids about the dangers of alcohol abuse. Get tips for talking to your teen about drugs and alcohol.
Learn signs your teen may be abusing alcohol.
If you have reached this screen, your current device or browser is unable to access the full Edward-Elmhurst Health Web site.
To see the full site, please upgrade your browser to the most recent version of Safari, Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer. If you cannot upgrade your browser, you can remain on this site.