Here's How Alcohol Gets You Drunk

Your night began at 10PM on New Year’s Eve. Wow, what a long year it’s been, you thought. Eager to begin pregaming your New Year’s festivities and to forget your impending death, you took a shot of whiskey.


The whiskey’s ethanol traveled through your bloodstream and up to your brain to the GABA and NMDA receptors. The GABA receptors would have kept you inhibited and prevented you from shouting at the club bouncer later, but the ethanol is already interfering. It’s also done a number on the NDMA receptor, which is why you don’t remember being thrown out of the bar, and why you passed out on your floor

Did you eat dinner? You don’t remember that either, but you probably didn’t because the ethanol only took a minute or so to absorb into your stomach and travel to your brain. If you’d eaten something, maybe some sugary or fatty snack, you wouldn’t have gotten so wasted so quicky.

But forget all that. You were at the club having a great time. The ethanol caused your brain to release adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine, stimulants that pumped up your heart rate and jacked up your senses. The music was bumping and the lights were bright. The drink also sent dopamine running through your body. You rapped all the lyrics to your favorite Pitbull song. You were happy.

The texts have started rolling in. The first one: your ex. The alcohol’s effects slowed your thought processes, and you texted them “U up?” at 4 AM. That will be an awkward phone call later. The second: “u were so messed up last night lol.” Your friend explained: It turns out you knocked into someone while asking them to be your New Years kiss, and spilled their drink all over their coat, since the ethanol impaired your brain’s control over your muscles. That must be why the bouncer came over. The third is a picture of you naked, peeing on the street. No one knows why your clothes came off, but you’re peeing because the ethanol blocked an antidiuretic hormone that would have helped you control that urge. You didn’t feel the cold, since it also messed with your brain’s body’s temperature regulation functions.

So now it’s New Year’s day and 2017 has really started poorly, plus the GABA and NMDA the ethanol held back are flooding their receptors, making you feel tired and wonky. Maybe next time you’ll eat something, or space your drinking out over a few hours. Or maybe you won’t.

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You forgot to tell me why the car is in the front yard and I’m sleeping with my clothes on.