Alcohol and Health

"In all things there is a poison, and there is nothing without a poison. It depends only on the dose whether a poison is poison or not."
- Paracelsus

What does it do to your brain?

In the drugs pantheon, alcohol is classed as a depressant, along with barbiturates, tranquillizers and anesthetics. However, its effects are somewhat biphasic - at low doses, it acts as a mild stimulent. As concentrations in the bloodstream increase, stimulation gives way to sedation, stupor, coma and finally death.

The excitement phase is characterized by exhileration, loss of restraints and inhibitions, talkativeness, mood swings and displays of extreme emotion. Accompanying physical symptoms include slurred speach, sensory disturbance, poor balance and impaired judgment. Most people display this kind of functional depression with blood alcohol concentrations at or below 0.1%. By 0.3%, all but the most hardened drinkers are visibly drunk, and by 0.4% most people would be asleep. At higher levels, deep coma sets in, with the risk of death through anesthesia of the heart or the breathing section of the brain.

What does it do to your body?

Alcohol enters the body through the small intestine. Almost as soon as it is absorbed, the body starts to metabolize it. At mild levels of intoxication, it stimulates the adrenal glands, causing them to discharge hormones. It is this action that accounts for alcohol's stimulant properties, and not any direct action of the drug on the brain. The equilibrium and metabolism of the liver are disturbed, causing it to dump sugar into the bloodstream. The ingestion of a small amount of alcohol also causes mild electrolyte imbalances in the body, which after a short period return to normal.

Heavier intoxication leads to a more severe imbalance in body chemistry, acute hepatitis and various symptoms colloquially known as a hangover. Just in case you need reminding, these include nausea, headache, gastrisis, thirst and dehydration caused by cells dumping water, and a residual malaise of mental and physical incompetance that lasts up to twenty four hours.

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