K it’s about time I wrote about this, Mum don’t read this post cos you’ll be disappointed in me xox

So have you ever noticed how when you haven’t had any alcohol in a long time, then you have a glass or two of wine suddenly you’re a lot drunker that you thought you’d be? Or the other way around where if you’ve been having a beer or two a night, it actually takes quite a lot of alcohol in order for you to feel intoxicated? Yeah, I’m gonna talk about alcohol, alcohol tolerance and hangovers in this post. (PS it’s a Sunday, it’s 3.30pm and I’m sitting on the couch in my pajamas. Hmmmm.)

Right, I’ve gone over this before, but what does alcohol do to you again? The main part of alcohol that actually has an effect on you is the ethanol. Ethanol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system. The central nervous system is basically the part of your brain that controls stuff like co-ordination, muscle movement, speech, actually pretty much everything. By depressing the CNS all of those functions go a bit wobbly, which is being drunk. The more ethanol you drink, the more your CNS is depressed, the worse you get at movement (I’m looking at you, white boy dance moves), and other CNS functions. The cool thing is, that liver that we talked about ages ago? It detoxifies the ethanol, by metabolising the ethanol molecules and making them unable to have that effect on the CNS. But with that comes limitations, which is where the “standard drink” thing comes in to play. Some fancy maths and laws of averages has allowed us to figure out that the AVERAGE liver can metabolise ONE standard drink of alcohol PER HOUR.

I’m not gonna lie, this is wildly inaccurate, for many different reasons. Let’s go.

  1. Sex. In general, men have larger livers than women, which means physically there is more room for them to metabolise the ethanol, therefore it takes more ethanol for them to get drunk.
  2. Age. As is the case with many bodily functions, there is a peak age for performance. Either side of that age will be less good at metabolising alcohol.
  3. Food. If you have food in the stomach it takes longer for the alcohol to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Think of the food being like a sponge in your stomach which soaks up the alcohol, then just slowly drips it into your bloodstream. It means your liver has plenty of time to metabolise the booze instead of being hit with it all at once.
  4. Endoplasmic reticulum. Bless you. What?

This is the cool part. So in your liver cells, you have this stuff called endoplasmic reticulum, which (in English) kinda translates to inside-cell wavy stuff. Because it looks like wavy stuff inside the cell. That’s not important though. The ER functions to detoxify stuff by metabolising it, so you have plenty of it in the liver. The AMOUNT of ER you have in cells is variable, and it’s influenced by how much you need it. What happens is, the more consistently you drink booze the more your liver is like “ah man, we’re having to detoxify a lot of this ethanol stuff, lets make some more ER so we can do a better job at this.” Which is why some people who are consistent drinkers can hold their alcohol fairly well without getting too drunk. HOWEVER. The same occurs in the opposite direction. If you don’t drink for a while because, say, you’ve had uni exams and needed to study, the liver will be like, “hey, there’s all this ER in my cells which I’m not using and it’s taking up space, I’ll break it down cos I don’t need it.” Consequently, when you finish exams and drink half a bottle of Jose Cuervo, your liver isn’t prepared for the influx of alcohol and you get DRUNK OMG SO DRUNK JUST LIKE THE DRUNKEST YOU’VE EVER BEEN then you end up vomiting in someones pocket and giving your ID to the bouncer for the wrong bar. Or something.


CAVEAT: This has limitations. The amount of ER may fluctuate up and down a bit, but it’s never going to mean you can drink as much as you want just by doing it all the time. That results in alcoholic liver disease which is not fun, so don’t do that. This is not a “How To Drink The Most” advice post. This is Get Learned, damnit. Don’t be an idiot.

Now, hangovers! Quite simply, there are a lot of factors that cause hangovers, we’re not super sure about exactly what they are. For certain one aspect of a hangover, the headache bit, is most likely caused by dehydration. Alcohol makes you need to pee, so you can get dehydrated even though you’re drinking fluids. There’s been some talk about electrolyte imbalances in the body, which is why some people think Powerade or electrolyte sports drinks might help, but there’s no real evidence for that. The sore tummy thing is because alcohol irritates your gastrointestinal system and causes inflammation. Another thought is that a byproduct of ethanol metabolism is toxic and produces hangover symptoms, which might be true. But tbh, there’s a lot of theories and no real answers here. If you have a miracle cure for a hangover, I’m all ears. People tend to say drinking water, taking pain killers, resting and eating greasy food work the best, and I tend to agree cos that sounds like an ideal Sunday. Speaking of which, I g2g, my food is ready.

Thanks for reading team, hope you enjoyed. GET LEARNED!





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