What Really Happens When You're Drunk


Why do people turn to drinking excessive amounts of alcohol? Often, it can stem from a traumatic experience, major health trauma, sadness, depression, nervousness or worry. Factors in your life such as a negative work environment or relationship can also lead to alcohol abuse.  

Even responsible drinking patterns can have serious health effects like high blood pressure. Alcohol also affects thinking and judgment along with other cognitive skills. Long term, it can have a serious effect on your brain function, memory and behavioral patterns. 


In the United States, a standard drink contains 0.6 ounces (14.0 grams or 1.2 tablespoons) of pure alcohol. You would find this measure in: 

  • 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
  • 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
  • 1.5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor

Understanding Alcohol Intoxication

Also called ethanol intoxication, acute alcohol intoxication, alcohol poisoning, occurs after one drinks enough alcohol to change your behavior and impair your physical and mental abilities. Symptoms include impaired judgment and coordination, slurred speech, blurred vision, trouble concentrating or other cognitive issues as well as a slower reaction time or drowsiness. Severe intoxication symptoms also include vomiting, slower or irregular breathing, cold, pale or bluish skin and unconsciousness. 

A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08, indicates you're legally intoxicated. Weight is a factor and can fluctuate results a bit, but the average person hits .08 after 2-3 drinks in one hour. Tolerance levels vary from person to person which truly depends upon how your body absorbs and rids the body alcohol. After one drink, your blood alcohol content immediately may lead to feelings of pleasure, relaxation and greater sociability. More drinking increases behavior variations. Generally, the physical and mental effects peak about 45 to 90 minutes after you stop drinking. BAC then quickly declines, falling more slowly until alcohol completely leaves the body several hours later. Exactly when this happens depends in part upon how much you drink.

Two out of every three American adults drink alcoholic beverages and nearly 17.6 million of them have alcohol issues or have become alcoholics. There is no treatment to reverse alcohol intoxication. However, for severe alcohol intoxication, you may receive: 

  • Intravenous (IV) fluids with B complex vitamins for dehydration 
  • A breathing tube 
  • Follow-up to monitor recovery until BAC falls.