We all know that if you drink too much alcohol… you’ll get drunk. Have you ever stopped to wonder just how that works? You should.
Someone is killed in a drunk driving crash every 45 minutes in the United States.
By understanding the affects that alcohol has on your body, you can better understand why drinking and driving should never be an option.
Let’s talk about how exactly alcohol affects our bodies, why this makes driving so dangerous, and how you can stay safe on the roads.
How does alcohol affect your body?
Alcohol is a depressant. As you drink, the alcohol gets absorbed into your blood stream. This happens in several ways – tiny blood vessels in your mouth, your stomach, and your small intestine.
Your bloodstream moves the alcohol through your body very quickly. As this happens, alcohol starts to affect several areas of your body, including your liver, brain, and nervous system.
When you start drinking, your liver immediately begins breaking the alcohol down. However, the liver can only process approximately one unit of alcohol per hour. That means the more you drink, the longer it stays in your blood stream. This is why we measure someone’s intoxication level through blood-alcohol content.
Because of the way our bodies process alcohol, the only thing that can sober you up is time. Your body, and particularly liver, need time to metabolize the alcohol that you ingest. Period.
You may hear someone talking about how a cup of black coffee or a plate full of greasy fast food sobers them right up after a night of drinking. They’re wrong.
While there are things that you can do to make your body feel better, there is no substitute for time when it comes to being sober.
Brain & Nervous System
Alcohol typically reaches your brain within five minutes and affects you in multiple ways.
First, drinking causes your brain to release dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy, and serotonin, which helps us feel calm. This is why you’re much more likely to hop on that karaoke stage after a few drinks.
Additionally, alcohol increases the effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a chemical messenger in your brain. It slows down your brain by blocking specific signals in your central nervous system. GABA is responsible for producing a calming effect, which helps us battle things like anxiety, stress, and fear. Drinking too much alcohol can send GABA into overdrive, slowing down your brain response and making you careless.
Finally, the cerebellum, the area of the brain that controls coordination, is incredibly sensitive to alcohol. This is why people begin to stumble or become sleepy after drinking too much.
How does alcohol affect your driving?
Because of the way alcohol affects our bodies, a small amount can make someone incapable of driving safely. Nearly all of the short-term effects of drinking take away skills that are crucial to safe driving.
Alcohol makes us feel overconfident and have poor judgement. You’re much more likely to make a careless mistake while driving under the influence.
It slows down our brain and leads to a lack of coordination. When you’re driving, you need to be able to focus on a lot of different things at once. Your speed, the road, other drivers, and traffic signals and signs – just to name a few. If you lose track of any one of these, the consequences can be deadly.
Drinking too much alcohol can make you drowsy. In extreme cases, it can cause someone to lose consciousness. If you’re not focused and alert while driving, you put yourself and others in danger.
Alcohol causes dizziness and blurred vision. It’s simple. If you can’t see where you’re driving, the odds of a deadly crash are astronomical.
Someone is injured in a drunk driving crash every 90 seconds. That means that there has been a crash since you’ve started reading this article.
Here’s how to stay safe!
When you consider how alcohol affects your body and ability to drive, the thought of drinking and driving is absurd. It puts yourself, your passengers, and your community at enormous risk. Luckily, it’s 100% avoidable.
Here are some ways to stay safe if you’re planning to have a few drinks.
- Choose a designated driver. Take turns with your group of friends as the designated driver. Make sure that the DD has the car keys and doesn’t drink any alcohol.
- Use a ride-share app. Setup an account with Uber, Lyft, or another reliable ride-share service before you start drinking.
- Take public transportation. When available, public transportation is a reliable way to get across town. Be sure and know the pickup and drop off locations before you head out.
- Ask for a ride. If all else fails and you’re unable to find a safe way home, call a loved one and ask for a ride. It may be a small inconvenience for them, but trust us – they would rather give you a ride than have you drive drunk.
Remember, there is never an excuse for drunk driving! Stay safe and enjoy responsibly this holiday season.
If you’re curious about the difference between drunk and buzzed driving, click below to find out.