In alcoholic drinks, a chemical compound called ethanol is responsible for the symptoms associated with intoxication. Numerous commercial and household products, such as mouthwash, perfume, and gasoline, also contain ethanol.
When a person drinks alcohol, ethanol passes through the digestive system and enters the bloodstream through the linings of the stomach and intestines. If an individual drinks alcohol on an empty stomach, their BAC usually peaks within 30–90 minutes.
Once ethanol is inside the bloodstream, it can travel throughout the body, affecting various functions.
Ethanol interferes with the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid. This amino acid, often called GABA, reduces central nervous system activity.
Ethanol also increases levels of adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that promotes sleep.
People may feel euphoric while drinking alcohol because ethanol stimulates the release of dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain. This effect on the brain’s dopamine system can lead to alcohol dependence.
Alcohol also interferes with several other bodily functions, such as:
- temperature regulation
- balance and coordination
- heart rate
- blood pressure
- decision making
- reproductive health
- immune function
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