How various body systems respond to a night of drinking

How various body systems respond to a night of drinking

The morning after a night of drinking may not be a pleasant experience for many due to certain adverse consequences like a spinning head, throbbing headache, nausea and uncontrollable hunger. For all these problems, some may blame their uncontrolled craving for alcohol.

However, there are more things to worry about than a few symptoms of hangover or some immediate aftermaths. In fact, alcohol, irrespective of doses, affects almost every system in the body, from the brain to digestive system to immunity as detailed below:

Concentration of alcohol in blood: The way the body responds to alcohol depends on the amount of alcohol accumulated in the bloodstream. The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and rates of rise and fall of BAC are directly related to the amount of alcohol consumed, the rate of its absorption by stomach and intestine, its distribution in the body and the subsequent elimination. While analyzing the effect of alcohol on mind and body, the baseline should be the actual amount of alcohol.

Alcohol travels through the bloodstream and diffuses into cells through cells membrane. With blood vessels supplying blood to all body organs, lungs, kidneys, liver and brain quickly attain the same alcohol levels as the blood. Significantly, these organs initially have higher concentrations of alcohol than other organs. The BAC becomes maximum when all body tissues and water attains the equal concentration of alcohol. Higher the BAC, higher the intoxication. Gradually, the BAC begins to fall and so does the intoxication, provided the person does not consume more alcohol.

Alcohol absorption in body: The absorption of alcohol in the body has a clear association with the type of alcoholic beverage and the amount of mixer in the drink. The more diluted the drink, the slower the absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, the absorption of alcohol is also affected by the speed with which it reaches the small intestine. Alcohol does not need to be digested so it bypasses the stomach. Around 80 percent alcohol is absorbed in the small intestine.

What one eats before and during drinking also affects the rate of alcohol absorption in the body. A heavy meal may decrease the absorption rate to an extent that it may take six hours to achieve peak BAC.

Response of digestive system: The effects of alcohol are felt when it enters the bloodstream, but the gastrointestinal tract lining is the first to respond. While the low concentrations of alcohol trigger the secretion of gastric juices and stimulate appetite, higher concentrations of the same can inhibit the action of digestive enzymes, causing digestion-related problems.

Response of heart and circulatory system to alcohol: Heart rate and blood pressure tend to rise even with low to moderate doses of alcohol, while higher doses of alcohol can decrease the pumping power of heart and can lead to irregular heartbeats. Low and moderate consumption can also cause rapid heat loss from skin, resulting in flushing or reddening at times. Heavy drinking can also impair the ability of the body to regulate body heat.

Response of endocrine and nervous systems: Endocrine system, under the influence of alcohol, may temporarily decrease sugar levels. Moreover, the body experiences increased urination, especially, while the BAC starts to rise.

The central nervous system gives the most recognizable response to alcohol consumption. As intoxication begins to rise, a person’s ability to react to visual or auditory stimulus gets impaired and he/she takes longer than usual to react. The noticeable effects include slowed reaction times, increased impulsivity, slurred speech, blurred vision, difficulty in walking and balancing, extreme emotions and poor memory among other problems.

Timely treatment is important

As per the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 86.4 percent people aged 18 or older in the U.S. admitted reported to have consumed alcohol at some point in their lifetime. With alcohol being the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the country, it is time to curb the menace of alcohol.

The Alcohol Addiction Helpline of California helps people give up alcohol by providing effective information on alcohol treatment centers in California. For more information, call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1715 or chat online with our treatment advisors.

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