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What’s Actually Happening To Your Brain When You Get Drunk?

by | Stop Drinking Alcohol | 8 comments

How is that alcohol affecting your brain?

I think most of us pay very little heed to what happens once the alcohol is disappeared down the throats. We want the drunken feeling, but what is really causing that drunken feeling? And, what price do you pay?

Today I wanted to talk about what happens to your brain when you drink alcohol.

So, one of the things that you have to understand about alcohol is that it’s going to affect a person very differently dependant on a host of different factors including:

  • How old you are.
  • Your previous alcohol history.
  • What you’ve eaten.

In general, once alcohol gets into your system, it equates to a grenade. When it goes off it explodes and goes everywhere in your body. Your body will respond to it, as it does any other toxin.

It goes on emergency override. It’s starts to shut things down in your body that you don’t actually need. For instance, one of the things that shuts down, is a very simple thing, your finger nails stop growing when your body is dealing with alcohol. I presume it is the same thing with hair as well, that your hair stops growing. Just for that time when your body is being taken over by the alcohol.

If you are looking at it from that point of view of what else is happening, what else is being closed down because your Liver has been forced into override and is dealing with vast amounts of alcohol.

Your body can only deal with a certain amount of alcohol, so I think that’s 8 grams per hour, it’s one unit anyway – in England that’s what it’s known as.

So once the alcohol goes into your system it’s absorbed by your blood steam and as I say it goes everywhere like a grenade that’s gone off inside.

Your Liver starts to break it down and one of the enzymes that it uses is something called Alcohol Dehydrogenases and it uses this Alcohol Dehydrogenases to break it in down into Acetaldehyde,

Acetaldehyde is way more toxic than the alcohol that’s just been broken down. It’s the just the way of it. Then this Acetaldehyde is further broken down until it turns into Acetic Acid which is basically Vinegar and Vinegar is then eliminated from your body harmlessly.

But as I say, your body can only deal with one unit of alcohol per hour – 8 grams of alcohol per hour. Once that’s finished, once the alcohol in your system is over that 8 grams of alcohol, your liver can’t deal with it, so it just goes through your body creating havoc. This is where we get the drunken feeling from. It’s the alcohol having just unfettered access throughout your body.

The first drink or two drinks are the ones that give you a little bit of a buzz and then things start to get a little bit depressed in our brain.

Your brain is the driving force behind everything so once the alcohol gets into your brain, it starts to give you slurred speech, slurred movement, clumsiness – as I say the more you drink the more things start to shut down.

Normal processes, normal bodily processes that happen 24 hours a day, whether you are awake or asleep, things that are going on beneath the surface even when you don’t realise that they are happening.

You only know that your nails are growing because you have to cut them every so often, the same with your hair, you know it’s growing because you have to chop it every so often, but you don’t actually see your hair growing. Some people don’t see It growing at all. I still have to cut my hair every so often, I have to shave it, so I still know it’s growing.

We all know that alcohol can cause dehydration and it causes you to go to the toilet a lot more. The reason why this happens is because your body has an Antidiuretic hormone called Vasopressin, and the job of this hormone is to tell your kidneys to regulate the amount of water that’s being excreted.

It tells your kidneys to sort of regulate the amount of water that’s being excreted from your kidneys, so it’s telling your Kidney’s to hold on to water instead of getting rid of it.

Now alcohol turns this Antidiuretic hormone off, it turns the Vasopressin off, so it makes you pee uncontrollably. As soon as the water comes in, you have the urge to go to the toilet.
That’s another reason why we get so many bad hangovers, one of the reasons, another big reason is that because your body has been shocked your body has gone through a shocking process of detoxification and alcohol poisoning.

Most people put it down to that you need to drink water because you’re dehydrated, bullshit. You’ve just gone through a toxic shock. I mean dehydrate yourself and see if that feels like a hangover. It doesn’t. It makes you very thirsty, you can get headaches from it, yeah, you can get a dry mouth from it, yeah, you can get the shakes even, but nothing like a bad hangover.

Somebody asked me in one of the recent YouTube comments to do a video on the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde nature of alcohol and our personalities.

I think the more appropriate way to look at this is to look at Dr Jekyll as your body and you, your mind, your conscious mind, as Mr Hyde.

You know you’re pouring the stuff into your body, the poison, the toxin in order to get the buzz and there’s the amiable Dr Jekyll in the background trying to protect you and as fast as your putting it in, Dr Jekyll is trying to push it back out again. Mr Hyde is there laughing and joking and thinking it’s all a big load of fun when it’s not. It’s a serious business.

I did a video a little while ago about how you only get one body in your life and to treat it in such a cavalier fashion, is personally from my point of view, unconsionable. You know what the fuck do people think they’re doing to themselves? Day in and day out and going yeah, yeah, yeah, isn’t this great you know, I feel, faww, you know, what is that about?

Do you remember there were a film years ago, called 2001 Space Odyssey and at the beginning of this film you see the development of a weapon, that’s what it feels like? That’s what it seems like to me when I look back at myself and look back at how much damage I was doing to myself and yeah, it just seems that, that’s what I was doing. Beating the thing against the ground, beating a bone against the ground.

Its Neanderthal, I can only speak personally now and talk about my own alcohol drinking and there were certainly episodes of that that were strictly Andertholic, no analogy needed.

I think I did turn into a Mr Hyde most of … a lot of the time. A lot of the time I would sit there and drink and be miserable and watch the TV and waste my life away, but sometimes I did turn into a Neanderthal and woe betide if anyone got near me and I had a big bone in my hand. That sounded bad, I mean one of those big bones, striking another bone, anyway.

We can tell how long alcohol stays in the system, there’s a test that they can do. They can test your blood, they can take a piece of your hair and they can test that to see if there is alcohol in your system. But how long do the effects of alcohol on your brain last?

The alcohol may have disappeared but how long does the influence of the alcohol last? How long is it suppressing your thoughts and your emotions, your actions. How many parts of your lives are missing because of this lingering ongoing influence.

I’ve often looked at my life and thought ‘Jesus Christ, where would I be now if I hadn’t drank?’ There’s no point in asking questions like that because at the end of the day, it could have been a whole different story.

I met my Wife, the mother of my Child in a Bar, so my Son wouldn’t have been born and I don’t even want to think about that, so that’s not a good thing.

So, if I could go back and drink again, would I? No I wouldn’t because of that one fact, because I have done some things and I have met some wonderful people because of my drinking, but if I hadn’t have drank, I would have lived a different life, I would have different things, no doubt about that.

Anyway, just ask yourself how long alcohol is influencing your mind, how long is it affecting you well passed the time when the actual alcohol has disappeared out of your life. Every time you drink – if you’re still drinking – just think about what’s happening, that Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde affect.

That your body is there fighting furiously in your corner to try and keep things stable, keeping equilibrium, to keep you alive and you’re doing your best to upset that equilibrium all in the name of the party. Feeling the buzz. Not good.

Take Care.

“I’ve never seen anyone drink themselves smart, successful or happy. Most end up broke, bitter and alone”

Until next time…
Onwards and Upwards!

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  1. Peter

    Good topic Kevin. When I finally decided to get serious about dealing with my alcohol use, I immersed myself in learning everything I could about two main topics: The physiological effects of the substance on my body and the science behind addictive behavior. What I learned was that alcohol indeed is a substance that is toxic to the human body and every time we ingest alcohol our bodies need to deal with it in a protective manner. There is simply nothing beneficial about alcohol from a physiological standpoint. It just kills me to hear the argument that “some alcohol ingestion is actually good for you”. That is a completely false premise without any scientific basis. Alcohol is not a substance that your body needs in order to function normally (naturally), and it does nothing to enhance your health. Every time you ingest alcohol you are forcing your body to do war with the substance because it recognizes it as foreign and harmful. It is a poison to your body and if you ingest enough of it, it will kill you. That is the very simple truth.

  2. Julie

    Wonderful video, Kevin.

    I’m finding even after having stopped for a long while, you have an emotional factor that may (or not?) ever go away. In Nov. I fell of a ladder (not drinking) & broke my tibia & knee.
    The recovery is long & boring.

    Every now & then, the thoughts are trying to trap me into making a poor decision & I haven’t- thank God. Do you think the mind part ever goes away?
    It is a highly complicated issue.

    Your help & work is highly appreciated! Thank you for all you are doing. Julie

    • Steve

      Hi Julie, have you read Allen Carr’s book “Easy Way To Control Alcohol”? I promise that if you read that book and really take the time to understand what he is saying, then you will lose all desire to drink ever again. And if you do, go back to the book to remind yourself of his message. He kills the root of the alcohol illusion.

      • john

        where can i get this book by alan carr

  3. john swisshelm

    Hey Kevin, great video as always. I have also quite drinking for a while now, but i find my mind is still not right, i feel fine physically i don’t think mentally i’am even close. I read a lot about how your neurotransmitters in your brain get all out of wack from the alcohol. I’ve heard it can take up to a year before you really mentally start feeling better, and that a lot of daily exercise such as rigorous cardio can speed the process up. i’m not sure if you have touched on this topic, i would be interested in what you have to say about this. i feel so out of touch with reality some times.I feel like a lot, of times i should be having fun at certain events but i just feel nothing, i really feel alcohol has really fucked up my brain. I just want to come back so bad i just want to cry. Thank you Kevin for all you do.


    • Peter

      Hi John,

      Just wanted to offer my opinion on your concerns. One thing I am sure you understand is that a person who uses alcohol on a regular basis to alter their moods is constantly riding a roller-coaster of ups and downs. Getting drunk is a high, and recovering from a hang-over is a low. When you stop ingesting alcohol you will not experience the feeling of alcohol induced inebriation, and you will not experience the sickness of your body trying to heal the damage that alcohol has done. Being drunk was typically a high for me and that is why I drank alcohol for 45 years. But recovering from hangovers and dealing with the social damage to my life became increasing difficult. While I do miss the social lubricant and stress relief effects of alcohol from time to time, I realize that my life is overall much better now. Maybe alcohol did “fuck up” my brain a bit, but I know in my heart that continued alcohol use will only fuck it up more.

  4. Geraldine

    Excellent Kevin. We need more awareness like this . Govt is not helping at all. Making too much money.

  5. Jeanette

    Kevin what a great video, just like the rest I have watched. Keep up the good work!
    You are so inspirational and I can’t thank you enough!


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