How Does Alcohol Affect Various Parts of Your Body?

By May Wilkerson 03/25/16

More than 90% of heavy drinkers develop fatty liver disease, which can cause fatigue, weight gain, and pain.

How Does Booze Affect Various Parts of Your Body?
Photo via Business Insider/Samantha Lee

Alcohol may be responsible for some of your best times, some of your worst times, and that tattoo on your ankle. Booze is the most popular drug consumed all over the world, and it was recently ranked as the fifth most addictive substance on the planet, following nicotine, barbiturates, cocaine and heroin.

But what exactly does alcohol do to your brain and body that makes it so intoxicating? Like other mind-altering substances, alcohol elicits its desired (and undesired) effects by messing with your brain chemistry and affecting most of your vital organs.

Here is a breakdown from Business Insider of how booze affects various parts of your brain and body, for better or for worse:

Graphic courtesy of Business Insider/Samantha Lee


Alcohol is a depressant, so it makes you feel sluggish by boosting the activity of chemical messengers that slow down your movement. But it also boosts the levels of the “feel-good” chemical dopamine, which is why it can make you feel happy and confident, at least for a little while. But too much alcohol too often can damage the links between neurons in your brain and interfere with how you process information. Over time, this can lead to memory loss and dementia, a condition often called “wet brain.”


Your liver is generally equipped to process only an ounce of liquor per hour. Drinking more than that can dangerously, and quickly, raise your blood alcohol content, making it dangerous to drive, or even walk. Sudden, high levels of intoxication can lead to alcohol poisoning, and vomiting—one of the reasons college bathrooms are so gross. More than 90% of people who drink routinely and heavily develop a condition called fatty liver disease, which can lead to fatigue, weight loss, and chronic pain.

Breathing and Heart Rate

Alcohol acts very quickly on your breathing and heart rate, slowing them down, leading to that “woozy” or tipsy feeling. Overdoing it can be fatal, since you need both your breath and heart rate to survive.


You might feel tipsy just minutes after pounding back a beer or a shot. But it actually takes about 40-90 minutes for your blood alcohol content to reach its peak level. This is part of the reason you may feel fine one minute, reach for another beer, and then an hour or so later you find your head spinning or reach blackout state without realizing you’ve had too much.


Though people absorb alcohol differently depending on factors like body weight and metabolism, in general, alcohol will absorb into your bloodstream faster if you drink bubbly alcohol (like champagne), or if you drink on an empty stomach. Drinking without eating a meal first is also more likely to lead to a blackout, when your brain stops holding onto memories.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.

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