How Does Alcohol Make You Drunk: A Detailed Guide

How does alcohol make you drunk
Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash. Copyright 2022.

While at times contributed by guest authors, our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students.


Alcohol is a beverage that can make an introvert become the life of the party, that can make you forget your sorrow for a little but it’s also the drink that can wreck homes.

Everyone loves alcohol no matter how much it has made you embarrass yourself. No matter how many times it has made you bend over and throw your guts out, an alcoholic will always go back.

But have you wondered, how does alcohol make you drunk?

In America, 85.6 people above the age of 18 drink alcohol. Out of these, 25.8% of these people end up developing Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Every year, 95,000 people die of alcohol abuse.

What is it that makes you go back to this toxic relationship with alcohol? What is it about alcohol consumption that makes you feel good enough to dance in a crowded room? How does alcohol make you drunk?

In this article, we are going to learn everything about how does alcohol makes you drunk. However, before we move on, take precautions when you start drinking and if you are already a culprit of AUD, seek help from loved ones before it gets too far.

A. The History of Alcohol

Let us begin at the very start. Alcohol has existed for over a thousand years. The first record of alcohol is when remnants of beer were found in Mesopotamian pots. Then came the Egyptians with their pyramids and beer. Egyptians celebrated with beer made from fermenting grains.

Man first started drinking wine in Greece. The Grecian culture consisted of using wine as a means to fix ailments. The Romans quickly followed. They took over the winemaking and became famous for it.

Alcohol entered the Western lands pretty late. In the 1500s, alcohol was introduced to England. This did not last long as the drinking and making of alcohol were quickly banned. It was considered a crime and a sin.

As the British colonized America, in came alcohol. They introduced alcohol to the country and the rest, well is history.

B. How does alcohol make you drunk?

Now that we know how alcohol entered the country, let us see how it works its magic on you.

Alcohol is a great ice breaker and a party starter. But how exactly does it make you want to party all night long even after you’ve had a long day? How does alcohol make you drunk?

The culprit that is responsible for your regrettable decision-making is called ethanol. Ethanol is the chemical compound that is present in fermented beverages. And since most of the alcohol is made from fermentation, ethanol is present in these alcoholic beverages.

Ethanol is not just used to get drunk. In fact, it has played a major role during wars. Doctors and nurses used alcohol to clean wounds at camps since access to medical supplies was limited. Alcohol is a natural disinfectant. Soldiers often use it externally as well as internally. So how does alcohol make you drunk?

1. How does alcohol make you drunk once it enters your digestive system?

Once this elixir enters your mouth, it mixes with the saliva. This saliva carries it through the digestive tract into the small intestine and the stomach. Some ethanol molecules mix with the bloodstream and carry themselves into the tiny blood vessels. This is when you start to feel warm and fuzzy.

The rest of the alcohol is carried into the small intestine. The small intestine absorbs the ethanol molecules into the blood. The rest of the alcohol is dropped into the stomach.

How does alcohol make you drunk
Image by Daniel X. O’Neilcia via Flickr. Copyright 2022.

The stomach plays the most important role in the question of ‘how does alcohol make you drunk’ (besides the brain). The stomach has a sphincter named pyloric sphincter. This sphincter opens up when there is no food in the stomach and shuts itself when the stomach does have food in it.

There is a reason why you should eat something before starting a wild night out. Drinking on an empty stomach can cause you to get too drunk too fast which can lead you to throw your guts out later that night.

This is one answer to ‘how does alcohol make you drunk very fast?’.

If you have properly eaten before drinking alcohol, the alcohol stays in your stomach for some time since the sphincter is shut. It has no option but to fuse with the food. The food in the stomach absorbs the alcohol which makes the getting drunk process slow and easier.

So how does alcohol make you drunk exponentially if you are empty? If you drink on an empty stomach, the sphincter will allow excess alcohol to pass getting you incredibly drunk in just one or two glasses.

This is why you should always eat before you drink alcohol. Pace yourself and drink moderately.

2. How does alcohol make you drunk when it reaches your brain?

After alcohol passes through the digestive system, it gets pumped to the organs of the body that receive the most blood flow which is the liver and the brain.

In the liver, ethanol is broken down into two compounds. First, it is broken into acetaldehyde which is a toxic chemical. To eliminate this toxicity, it is broken down to acetate. The liver is constantly trying to clean the alcohol as it puts a lot of pressure on the liver.

This is why binge drinking alcohol or excessive drinking can cause liver damage. You should take care of your liver and drink responsibly.

Although the liver tries to break down the alcohol coming in, it cannot clean all of it. Most of it escapes and travels to the brain. This is where it starts.

So now coming to how does alcohol make you drunk?

How does alcohol make you drunk
Image by J E Theriot via Flickr. Copyright 2022.

Once ethanol has entered your brain, it takes over. It starts messing with your brain’s communication pathways. Ethanol activates GABA receptors (the neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid) and decreases the neurotransmitter called glutamate. Your brain’s function slows and you start to feel yourself become stupid. Another way how alcohol makes you drunk.

The ethanol wanders in your brain and makes it release dopamine and endorphins. Dopamine is a happy chemical and endorphins make a person feel calm. This is when you feel like talking to anybody and everybody.

Because alcohol can slow your brain down, it is very dangerous if consumed in high amounts. The central nervous system is responsible for brain-to-body functions and alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This is the same reason why you pass out after higher doses and also the reason for alcohol poisoning. This is the worst way you can get the answer to how does alcohol makes you drunk.

If ingested in high doses, your brain could be telling your body to breathe but the message may not be received by the body. Either that or the brain could completely forget to tell the body to breathe. This could be fatal.

Now that you have ingested enough alcohol, you’ve started to feel warm and fuzzy, probably started tripping on air, and have been slurring your way through conversations. This is drunkenness. This is how alcohol makes you drunk.

Since the functions of the brain have been slowed down, you do not have control over your actions and that can lead you to make regrettable decisions.

How does alcohol make you drunk
Photo by Michael Discenza on Unsplash. Copyright 2022.

In all seriousness, the effects of alcohol are very dangerous and can get you in trouble. Self-control is the only way that you can be a responsible drinker and not end up in jail.

3. How does alcohol make you drunk depending on your physical attributes?

Alcohol has different effects on different people. A younger person may experience alcohol differently than an older person. This is because of factors like age, gender, weight, and medical history.

If you are on any painkillers or have a medical history or even a hereditary problem, alcohol will affect you differently than it will others.

You can either be a lightweight or a heavy drinker. The capacity of a lightweight can change if they join in with the heavy drinking. Or vice versa, the heavy drinker can become a lightweight if there is a change in their physical or even mental wellbeing.

4. How does alcohol make you drunk depending on different types of alcohol?

We know that alcohol has been around for thousands of years. But back then the only alcoholic beverages that existed were mainly beer and wine. In today’s world, there are thousands of types of alcohol. All of these alcohols have different effects on the body.

Let us learn about how alcohol makes you drunk depending on different types of alcohol.

You may have noticed that your beer says 7% ABV on the bottle. Have you ever wondered what this means? Well, firstly, it means you are drinking really strong beer.

Alcohol by volume (ABV) is a universal alcohol content measurement. ABV% is what makes you drunk. All fermented drinks contain alcohol. Their alcohol content depends on whether they are distilled or not. Distilled drinks usually have more alcohol than undistilled drinks. Undistilled drinks are beverages like beer, wine, cider, etc. While distilled drinks are gin, rum, vodka, etc.

The most ABV beer can contain is 8%. While wine can have up to 12% ABV. This is why you can drink multiple doses of these drinks without getting drunk easily.

But when it comes to distilled drinks, the ABV can go up to 95%. Hard liquor is the culprit that makes you want to pass out.

How does alcohol make you drunk
Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash. Copyright 2022.

When it comes to alcohol, it can either be super fun or super dangerous. Alcohol is an addictive substance. 3 million people die of alcohol poisoning around the world every year. Alcohol also causes people to commit crimes that they would never think about. It is a dangerous substance and you should stop drinking if you think you turn into something you are not when you drink alcohol.

While at times contributed by guest authors, our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students. -----------------------------------

Any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here