The Science Behind Hangovers

Common Stages of Intoxication

The first symptoms of alcohol (ethanol) intoxication for most people include more talkative and social behavior. Many feel relaxed and happy. After a few drinks, people can become boisterous and enthusiastic and eventually progress through the stages of poor judgement. With more, vision blurs, reaction times slow, and people become uncoordinated and physically impaired, losing motor control and function. With continued drinking, alcohol poisoning can occur. Confusion, vomiting, slow breathing, seizures and passing out are all signs that it may be time to seek medical help.

Most people don’t have to drink to the point of feeling drunk to feel a hangover the next day, however. Scientists know that, once it’s in the brain, alcohol causes several chemical releases — motor pathways become overactive and blood sugar is processed less efficiently. However, different people react differently to alcohol. According to the National Institutes of Health, your physical health, how much and how often you drink, your genetic background and your family history can all influence your brain’s response to alcohol. This is how alcohol affects your body:

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Review Date: 
January 26, 2015

Last Updated:
January 29, 2015