Know How Alcohol Affects Your Body & Your Driving
Alcohol, no matter how small the amount that one consumes, has an effect on the body. Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream and only a tiny amount of it is excreted by the body through the urine and breath. Long-term use of alcohol especially in excessive amounts always has physical and emotional changes that greatly harm one’s body. There are many long-term effects of alcohol abuse that can put the health and life of a user in serious jeopardy as well as endanger them.
Alcohol mainly affects the following body systems:
- Excretory system
- Central nervous system
- Digestive system
- Circulatory system
- Sexual and reproductive health
- Skeletal and muscle systems
- Immune systems
How alcohol affects your body
Let’s have a brief look at how it affects each of the above body systems:
Excessive alcohol use causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that hamper its functioning. It ends up with an inflammation called pancreatitis, a very serious problem that can destroy the pancreas and result in chronic pancreatitis. Excessive alcohol also affects the liver by resulting in chronic liver inflammation. This can lead to cirrhosis which destroys the body and results in toxic substances not being excreted. Liver disease is life-threatening and women are at a higher risk of suffering from alcoholic liver disease than men because their bodies absorb more alcohol.
Central Nervous System
Alcohol highly affects the central nervous system. Alcohol intake interferes with its functioning and the result is slurred speech in some people, poor coordination, lack of balance when walking, and more. Excessive alcohol intake can result in dire consequences such as inability to think clearly, inability to form memories, numbness, seizures, and delirium from withdrawal efforts, permanent brain damage, and dementia.
Alcohol abuse can damage the salivary glands, tongue, cause ulcers in the esophagus, acid reflux, heartburn, stomach ulcers, and inflammation of the stomach lining. Excessive alcohol literally damages all parts of the digestive system. And this damage can lead to abdominal fullness, diarrhea, and internal bleeding from ulcers, hemorrhoids, or esophageal varices caused by cirrhosis. Heavy drinkers also face a higher risk of malnutrition as well as mouth, throat, and esophagus cancers.
At times, a single episode of heavy drinking can result in troubles for the heart, especially for chronic drinkers. Complications such as irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and poisoning of the heart muscle cells.
Sexual and Reproductive Health
Alcohol abuse often results in erectile dysfunctions among men. It also hampers hormone production, affects testicular functions, and causes infertility. In women, it can lead to infertility, miscarriages, premature delivery, stillbirths, and fatal problems on fetal development.
Skeletal and Muscle Systems
Too much alcohol makes it hard for the body to produce new bones. It also increases the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis (thinning bones).
Alcohol weakens the immune system and makes it hard to fight off illnesses such as pneumonia and tuberculosis.
How does blood alcohol concentration impact driving?
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is a measure of how much alcohol is in your bloodstream. This measurement is used to determine whether a person is over the legal limit, which can be determined by a chemical breath or blood test. While .08% is the legal limit, people begin to feel the effects of alcohol well before that.
At this state, judgment is impaired, loss of muscle control, and decreased alertness will also be present. These effects obviously have an impact on one’s driving ability, including steering. The driver will also be less likely to respond appropriately to an unexpected emergency situation. Coordination is affected, as is visual tracking. Having problems with visual tracking objects is an indicator of inebriation, which is why horizontal gaze nystagmus testing is used during sobriety testing.
Muscle coordination diminishes even further, as does reaction time, speech, hearing, and reasoning. A person’s ability to process information is negatively impacted, while perception is also impaired. This may affect distance judgment, as the driver may believe a vehicle or other object in the road is further away than it appears.
Reaction time deteriorates. Slurring is common at this stage, and a person may experience slowed-down thinking. Many people driving with a .10% BAC have difficulty staying within lanes, which makes their inebriation apparent to law enforcement.
Virtually all driving abilities are affected when a person has a BAC of .15%. Vomiting is likely, muscle control is well below normal, and balance is seriously compromised. Information processing, both visual and auditory, is also diminished.