Alcohol works on behavior from the top down. It knocks out intelligent control first. This takes the brakes off the emotions and lets them run wild. The fights, crying spells, and wild laughter of people under the influence of alcohol show this phase. It is during this time hilarity “on the fourth floor” that people do things they may regret when they become sober.
The progressive effects of alcohol continue. Reaction time of the muscles increases because the brain can’t control the muscles properly. The sense organs lose efficiency and begin playing tricks, such as double vision and partial deafness. The sense of balance is affected, causing dizziness, staggering, and sometimes falling. Finally, the brain drifts into deep sleep, the rate of breathing decreases, heart action slows, and the temperature lowers. A person in this condition lies near death – totally helpless. Fortunately, he can’t drink any longer in this condition.
The Progressive Effects Of Alcohol
We can sum up the effects of alcohol on the body in the following stages. They happen in approximately the order in which they are listed:
- Loss of intelligent behavior
Decrease in judgment
Decrease in self control
Increase in emotional responses
- Decrease in muscular control
Increase in reaction time
“Thick tongue” and slurred speech
Muscle tremors (shakes)
- Influence on sense organs
Loss of ability to judge distance
Impaired hearing, resulting in loud talking
Loss of equilibrium, causing dizziness and staggering
Decreased rate of breathing
Reduced heart action and blood pressure
Lowered body temperature
Alcohol In The Blood
How much alcohol is necessary to produce various stages of drunkenness? Alcohol affects different people in different ways. Some habitual drinkers seem to develop a certain amount of tolerance for alcohol. This means that they must drink more to experience the same effect. However, the average person with one half of one percent of alcohol in his blood is in critical danger. The amount of alcohol in the tissues is always the same as the amount in the blood. The data below show the effects of varying amounts of alcohol in the blood:
.1% – noticeably breath odor
.2% – clumsy movements
.3% – staggering gait
.4% – helplessness
.5% – Life in danger
Alcoholism is a problem within a problem. One problem is alcoholism concerns the effects of alcohol on the person. The other involves the conditions within the person, which led to the excessive use of alcohol. Alcoholic don’t drink because of habit. They are addicts, or persons given over to the practice of taking alcohol or drugs. Our first problem in understanding alcoholism is to distinguish between habit and addiction.
Habit versus addiction. It is easy to form the habit of drinking coffee or smoking. If you develop one of these habits and then cut off the source, the body may resent this for a time with craving and nervousness. However, the body doesn’t rebel.
In the case of addiction, the body has learned to depend on a substance such as alcohol. When the supply is cut off, it rebels violently, showing withdrawal symptoms. These include muscle shakes, severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and headache.