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Effects of Alcohol Intoxication

     So if alcohol is a natural product, why do we need to be concerned about drinking it? When people drink, alcohol is absorbed into their bloodstream. From there, it affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), which controls virtually all body functions. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system. That's why drinking small amounts of alcohol reduces anxiety. Alcohol actually blocks some of the messages trying to get to the brain. This alters your perceptions, your emotions, and even your movements, vision, and hearing.

     More alcohol causes greater changes in the brain, resulting in intoxication. People who have overused alcohol may stagger, lose their coordination, and slur their speech. They will probably be confused and disoriented. Intoxication can make people very friendly and talkative or very aggressive and angry. Reaction times are slowed dramatically. People who are intoxicated may think they're moving properly, when they're not. They may act totally out of character.

The following is a summary of the effects that alcohol has on your body.

General Effect

* Alcohol is a DOWNER that reduces activity in the central nervous system. The alcohol intoxicated person exhibits loose muscle tone, loss of fine motor coordination, and often has a staggering "drunken" gait.
* Eyes: The eyes may appear somewhat "glossy" and pupils may be slow to respond to stimulus. At high doses pupils may become constricted.
* Vital Signs: At intoxicating doses, alcohol can decrease heart rate, lower blood pressure and respiration rate, and result in decreased reflex responses and slower reaction times.
* Skin: Skin may be cool to the touch (but the user may feel warm), profuse sweating may accompany alcohol use.
* Observation: Loose muscle tone, loss of fine motor coordination, odor of alcohol on the breath, and a staggering "drunken" gait.

Specific Effects

     When large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short period of time, alcohol poisoning can result. Alcohol poisoning is very dangerous. Violent vomiting is usually the first symptom, as the body tries to rid itself of the alcohol. Extreme sleepiness, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, dangerously low blood sugar, seizures, and even death may result.

     The following is a description of the specific effects that are related to the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). The effects of alcohol intoxication are greatly influenced by individual variations among users. Some users may become intoxicated at a much lower Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level than is shown.

* 0.02-0.03 BAC: No loss of coordination, slight euphoria and loss of shyness. Depressant effects are not apparent.
* 0.04-0.06 BAC: Feeling of well-being, relaxation, lower inhibitions, sensation of warmth. Euphoria. Some minor impairment of reasoning and memory, lowering of caution.
* 0.07-0.09 BAC: Slight impairment of balance, speech, vision, reaction time, and hearing. Euphoria. Judgment and self- control are reduced, and caution, reason and memory are impaired.
* 0.10-0.125 BAC: Significant impairment of motor coordination and loss of good judgment. Speech may be slurred; balance, vision, reaction time and hearing will be impaired. Euphoria. It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle at this level of intoxication.
* 0.13-0.15 BAC: Gross motor impairment and lack of physical control. Blurred vision and major loss of balance. Euphoria is reduced and dysphoria is beginning to appear.
* 0.16-0.20 BAC: Dysphoria (anxiety, restlessness) predominates, nausea may appear. The drinker has the appearance of a "sloppy drunk."
* 0.25 BAC: Needs assistance in walking; total mental confusion. Dysphoria with nausea and some vomiting.
* 0.30 BAC: Loss of consciousness.
* 0.40 BAC and up: Onset of coma, possible death due to respiratory arrest.

Related Links
Choosing Not to Drink
Controlling Blood Alcohol Concentration
Avoid Drinking
Dependency Problem