How Does Alcohol Work?

Alcohol absorbs into the bloodstream via the stomach and small intestine. How does alcohol work to affect the nervous system and brain? We review more here.

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Alcohol alters your brain and has many effects on your body. But how exactly does alcohol affect the body and brain? Does alcohol have the same effects for everyone, especially as relates to how alcohol makes you drunk? And who gets addicted to alcohol? We’ll explore these questions and more in this article. And we invite your questions about how alcohol works at the end.

How does alcohol affect the brain and nervous system?

Alcohol works as a depressant on the brain. Alcohol can also affect the inhibition of neurotransmitters, thus making you sluggish and slow to respond when drinking. Alcohol also directly interacts with the serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain. This is what accounts for the feel good sensations in the body and good moods you feel when you’re drunk. When you drink too much, serotonin and dopamine carried by alcohol flood the brain and create this reaction. Over time, if you drink too much you can slowly kill brain cells which control memory and cognition.

How does alcohol work in the body?

Alcohol affects everyone differently based on your weight, age, and gender. But alcohol is process the same for everyone. Once you drink alcohol, it slowly moves through the body and absorbs into the blood stream. Most of the alcohol gets absorbed through the stomach and small intestine. Once in the bloodstream, alcohol can cross the blood-brain barrier and affect the brain. The liver then breaks down the alcohol and metabolizes, or processes, alcohol to pass through the system. Alcohol in system for how long? Alcohol can linger in the body some two odd hours after drinking.

When alcohol starts to affect the body, your limbs feel a little numb and you lose control of motor functions. Your body responses are slower and your sense of touch decreases. If you drink too much all of the time, you begin to affect your liver and heart. Over time, alcohol weakens the liver’s ability to process alcohol and can actually cause disease in the liver. When you are drunk, accident likelihood increases and the potential for body harm can occur.

How fast or quickly does alcohol work?

How fast alcohol works involves a great many factors. Factors that contribute to the speed of intoxication include:

  1. Food in the stomach
  2. Gender
  3. Genetic factors of dependence
  4. Height
  5. Other substances and drugs in the system
  6. Tolerance
  7. Weight

How long does alcohol work?

Alcohol generally stays in the body for about 2 hours. You may feel the various effects of alcohol within about this time frame. In general, you can feel the effects of alcohol about 30 minutes after it enters the system. The effects might last for awhile afterward, depending on how much you continue to drink. Still, keep in mind that how long alcohol works varies by type of alcohol and type of physical body as well as the environmental and genetic factors which predispose drinking. People with a higher tolerance for alcohol may be intoxicated for shorter periods while those with low tolerance may be drunk for longer amounts of time.

Alcohol work better

Alcohol has a stronger effect on people with lower tolerance. The concept of the “light weight” actually means that alcohol works better on people with a lower tolerance for alcohol. Additionally, different strengths of alcohol content will work better on some people. Drinking on an empty stomach will get you drunker faster than if you had food in the body.

Also, some people take many different types of drugs both illegal and prescribed while they drink. Other times people purposefully use drugs and drink. Don’t do this! If you are on medications and drink, pharmaceutical drugs can interact with alcohol in negative ways. In these cases, drugs increase the absorption rate of the alcohol into the system. The end result might be faster intoxication, but you can also overdose or experience alcohol poisoning. Likewise, alcohol increases the effects of drugs in the system making the high stronger, as well as increasing the danger of all the substances in the body. Consult your labels.

Does alcohol work for everyone?

Yes. Alcohol works on almost everyone. Because there are so many different forms of alcohol, it really is a matter of finding what works for you. Some people do have a very high tolerance to alcohol and it may take many drinks or high alcohol content start to feel the effect of alcohol and to alter mood and perceptions in the way the body and mind reacts to everything.

How alcohol works questions

There are so many different types of alcohol. Wine, beer, and hard liquor, to name a few. But drinking alcohol is not always bad for you if you drink responsibly. Do you still have questions about how alcohol works? Please leave your questions here. We will try our best to answer you personally and promptly. And if we don’t know the answer to your questions, we’ll refer you to someone who does.

Reference Sources: NIH: Alcohol effects the body
NIAAA: Alcohol and the brain

NIAAA: Exploring Alcohol’s Effects on Liver Function

State of California: Stop Teen DUI campaign – The short and long term effects of alcohol
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. Hi Jeffrey A.M. There’s a way out. Have hope. A good treatment program can help you overcome your addiction and heal the whole family. Call us on the number displayed on our website. Our admission navigators will lead you through the process of finding the best rehab for your problem. Stay strong.

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  2. Hi, I’m a student with a 19 years old, and I don’t know why most of people love drinking alcohol, seriously I mean like it just waste your time, it wastes everything, your money, your respect through others. People think sometimes that alcohol is a solution to some kinds of problems, alcohol isn’t a solution to anything, it’s just a waste of time and it makes no sense.

  3. This is a very informative and helpful blog, so many thanks for that but actually there is only one type of alcohol ‘legally available’ for human consumption and that is ethanol. Flavour it any way you like but the alcohol in whisky is the same alcohol found in beer etc. Yes, the percentage by volume changes from one type of drink to another but the chemical is just the same toxic and highly dangerous substance found in all alcoholic drinks.

    Please correct your text as it is very misleading to say that ‘there are so many different types of alcohol’ when, in fact you, mean that there are so many different types of alcoholic drinks.
    Best regards. Kit.

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