The One Night Stand with Alcohol

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Everybody loves a drink. Well I tell myself that anyway. I like a drink as much as the next person, but sometimes I pull myself back and think about the consequences. When I say consequences, yes there are the long term alcoholic risks that everyone knows about, but what I really want to delve into is the effects on the body as well as the very frustrating hangover.

The Dreaded Hangover

My number one reason for reducing my drink intake is the hangover. I am crippled for at least 2 days after a heavy binge; although they are getting fewer as the years go on. I should probably throw in a disclaimer here and state that I am not an alcoholic, I have never been one and don’t intend to be one, but as I grow older and my responsibilities get more important, I simply can’t afford to waste a weekend, nor do I want to.

I don’t know if it just me, but time is just so damn precious and I want to cherish every minute of it. This cannot be the case following a drink too many on too many weekends.

What Happens in the Body

What basically happens is this. Alcohol is detected as a foreign compound and the body tries to eliminate it. That is how efficient are bodies are and we just don’t appreciate it. The liver and kidneys work overtime and with alcohol being a diuretic, you urinate more, but that’s after the drink enters the blood stream, leaving you to urinate nothing but water, thus eliminating nothing. With more alcohol going in (and going in at a record breaking rate as the night evolves), the water leaving is also excessive (running back and forth to the bathroom with a bladder that has no control).

Dehydration is what leads to the crazy headache. I am sure most of you are aware of the water loss reasoning for the hangover, but what happens to the brain?

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What Happens in the Brain

The electrical signals in your brain start to slow but the inhibitory neurotransmitters start to increase letting your walk progress into a cross between a penguin and a crab (even though you think your secretly strutting your own virtual catwalk). Your Dopamine increases too (that moment the drink kicks in and you confidence soars), that feeling after a terrible day of work, all of a sudden becomes a success because of what you learned not to do.

In total, 4 parts of the brain are effected – Cerebral Cortex, Cerebellum, Hypothalamus and Pituitary as well as the Medulla. Affecting these parts of the brain induces the sluggish feeling yet excitatory feeling because nerve impulses are effectively shooting everywhere but in an uncoordinated fashion.

As your glucose levels are diminished and the dizziness sets in, you have a sudden impulse for carbohydrates which is why the Fast Food Truck does amazingly well parked outside in the early hours of the morning.

Closing off

We already touched on the dehydration as a main hangover culprit, but what also contributes to this regretful morning is that the alcohol is so toxic ultimately leading to an incredible effort from the liver to break it down that a vinegar like substance is produced which upsets the stomach, leading to heartburn and ultimately induces vomiting. As well as metabolizing alcohol, any beneficial minerals and vitamins remaining in the body are broken down which causes the tiredness, zero energy and zero tolerance attitude the following day.

There are the long-term problems as well. You know the beer belly, heart attacks, alcoholism etc, but we tend not to think of these, so think of the above as a short term reminder that alcohol creates a completely false sense of confidence and whatever you were felling down about the previous night, it will hit you 10 times harder the following day and all you will end up doing is lying in bed with self-pity and only yourself to blame. Trust me. I know from a once a week experience. Now, I try and enjoy a drink (or 2 or 3 even 4). Sometimes I get carried away just to remind myself I don’t like getting carried away.


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