What Does Intoxication Mean?

Intoxication Can Have Varying Levels and Symptoms

Three beer classes
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Intoxication is a common term used to describe the state where someone has ingested a large quantity of alcohol or other addictive substances.

What is Intoxication?

You have reached the point of intoxication when the alcohol produces mental or physical impairments, such as slurred speech, difficulty walking or disorientation. In addition to observable symptoms, your level of intoxication is also distinguishable through tests, such as a breathalyzer or blood test.

 

What Causes Intoxication?

Alcohol is a term used for ethanol, a common substance in wine, beer and liquor. Ethanol is responsible for intoxication because it has a depressive impact on parts of the brain. As more alcohol is ingested, the ethanol takes greater effect, causing impairments in progressive order, such as:

  • Loss of Inhibitions: After just a couple of drinks, you may feel more relaxed, more open and less self-conscious
  • Euphoria: You may feel elated, engage in talkative or loud conversations or do other actions you wouldn't normally, such as dancing. 
  • Ataxia: Ataxia refers to impaired walking. You may be unable to walk a straight line or repeatedly stumble.
  • Poor Judgment: You may make poor decisions you wouldn't otherwise make, such as sleeping with someone or driving under the influence.
  • Vomiting: You may begin to vomit as your body tries tor id itself of the ethanol in your system
  • Confusion and lethargy: You may become disoriented, unaware of where you are. You also may become extremely tired, sometimes passing out. 
  • Shutdown of System: You can enter a coma-like state or even die. 

How to Prevent Intoxication

Many factors impact intoxication. Approximately 20% of the ethanol in liquor is absorbed into the blood from the stomach and the rest from the small intestine. The longer alcohol stays in the stomach, the longer it takes to be absorbed, lowering the rate of intoxication.

 

This is why drinking on an empty stomach causes rapid intoxication. Eating before drinking, and continuing to snack, slows the absorption of alcohol and reduces its impact. Eating can also help you sober up faster as long as no more alcohol is consumed. 

What Can Worsen Intoxication?

Some people are more prone to intoxication than others. For instance, someone who is a heavy drinker may be able to ingest much larger quantities than a light drinker without being intoxicated. Other factors impacting intoxication include:

  • Medications: Certain medications can enhance the effect of alcohol and increase intoxication. Sedative drugs, such as those for anxiety or mood disorders,can be extremely dangerous if combined with alcohol.
  • Weight and Fat Distribution:If you have two people, one woman who is 5'2 and 180 lbs and a woman who is 6'2 and 180 lbs, the shorter woman will be less intoxicated than the taller woman. The shorter of the two will have a larger fat mass, which makes it more difficult for the ethanol to be absorbed and will slow the process down. 
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions can make you more susceptible to intoxication. Before drinking, talk to your doctor about potential risks and how much alcohol is considered safe. 

Sources:

"Acute Intoxication". World Health Organization, 2014.

"Alcohol Intoxication". EMedHealth, 2015. 

 

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