Alcohol Lowers Inhibitions and can Lead to Bad Decisions-Why?

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : JULY 20, 
| 4 Sources

Alcohol lowers inhibitions and leads to bad decisions. The effects of alcohol are unpredictable, based on the individual's tolerance level, weight, age, pre-existing medical conditions and other factors.

Alcohol can also lead to feelings of aggression and depression that may cause reckless behavior such as driving under the influence or fighting with others. Read more about why alcohol lowers inhibitions in this blog post!

What is Alcohol and What Does It Do to the Body?

Alcohol, or ethyl alcohol (ethanol), is a chemical widely used in alcoholic beverages. It can also be produced by natural fermentation processes that do not involve any human activity. The production of alcohol requires the presence of certain ingredients, such as sugar and yeast, along with warm temperatures.

Alcoholic substances are found in beer, wine and liquors like whiskey, vodka and tequila. Alcohol is also present in some fruit juices, but in very low quantities. Other than being naturally available, it can be produced synthetically.

When consumed, alcohol is usually tasted first by the sense of smell before it enters into the bloodstream through the lining of the mouth and throat.

While it is entering the bloodstream, alcohol begins to affect areas of the brain that may control feelings such as fear or pain. Alcohol travels through blood by mixing with water molecules and dissolving into them.

The Science Behind Why Alcohol Lowers Inhibitions

When people drink alcohol, parts of the brain are thought to be affected by changes in the

from one nerve cell to another. Alcohol interferes with some of those signals and prevents others.

Alcohol also alters levels of a chemical known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which reduces anxiety. As a result, people who drink alcohol often have lower inhibitions, and become more relaxed than when they started drinking.

How Alcohol Affects Different People at Different Times

While alcohol can lower your inhibitions temporarily, it is important to remember everyone's reactions may be very different. This difference is caused by several factors including tolerance level and body weight. Some people can consume one or two drinks and feel nothing, but the same amount can make someone else drunk.

There are three main reasons why alcohol lowers inhibitions in different people:

  • Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC): The concentration of alcohol in a person's bloodstream determines how he or she will react to any given dose. When you consume alcohol, it enters your 
  • stomach and is then absorbed into the blood through the walls of your intestines.
  •  After that, it goes to your liver where proteins called enzymes break down the alcohol before it enters the rest of your body. 

This process takes about 20 minutes on average, so some of the effects people experience when they drink may happen during this time period.

alcohol lowers inhibitionsPhoto by Terricks Noah

How Alcohol Lowers Inhibitions

When alcohol is mixed with water molecules it can diffuse through the walls of the stomach and intestines, which are composed mostly of water. That's why many effects of drinking occur before you actually swallow your drink; some may even begin in your mouth! For instance, when you take a drink, its smell immediately travels up to your nose so that you can "smell" it

Once it enters your mucous membranes and reaches the various areas of your brain, alcohol produces different reactions depending on the individual. Because everyone has a different tolerance level -- or how much they can consume before feeling drunk - everyone reacts differently to different amounts of alcohol.

Some people do not feel any impairment at all when they have just one or two drinks, while others may feel the effects right away.

Finally, your body weight and size can determine how long it takes alcohol to reach certain areas of the brain and body. This is why a smaller person will typically experience more intense effects from drinking than someone who is heavier.

If you look at a bottle of wine, beer or liquor, most contain about 10 grams of pure alcohol in every 100 milliliters (mL). For example, four shots of 80-proof liquors like rum or vodka are equal to 1 standard drink because they all contain about 40 mL of pure alcohol each.

By measuring their drinks with shot glasses and checking nutrition labels on bottles of wine and beer , people can estimate how many alcoholic beverages they have had.

The Dangers of Drinking Too Much

When you drink alcohol, the amount of fat in your body is also changed. Excessive drinking changes how much fat you keep and how much your body releases into your blood. When you have more fat in your blood than normal, it can clog your heart and blood vessels.

This is called " atherosclerosis." Atherosclerosis makes it harder for the organs of your body to function properly and even increases your risk of having a stroke or dying of heart disease.

Cirrhosis of the liver and other health problems can develop when excessive amounts of alcohol continue to circulate through your bloodstream for long periods. Eventually, chronic drinking causes permanent damage to vital areas within the brain, including the development of certain types of cancers. In addition to harming the parts of the brain that control;

  • memory, 
  • emotions, 
  • speech , 
  • hearing , 
  • coordination and , 
  • movement , 
  • vision , 
  • learning, 
  • depression and anxiety 

are also common side effects associated with heavy drinking .

When you consume large amounts of alcohol, the brain's functions and judgment can be severely impaired, which can increase your likelihood of making a critical decision that you may later regret.

For example, after consuming five to eight alcoholic beverages in a short period of time, people often lose their ability to drive safely as well as make safe decisions around fast-moving water or when they are climbing high places like trees or buildings.

Even more problematic is the fact that people who drink heavily are also prone to becoming violent because there is little control over how they react when under the influence.

Another major risk factor with heavy drinking is it increases your chances of addiction.

How to Stop Drinking or Cut Back on Your Consumption 

Drinking alcohol is a social phenomenon, often taking place during parties, get-togethers with friends or at sporting events. When you drink in moderation, it can be enjoyable and safe.

However, if you find your drinking patterns are leading you to regularly engage in risky behavior or putting your health in jeopardy, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. Quitting "cold turkey" may be too difficult for many people since drinking heavily has become second nature. Instead of trying to stop altogether, try cutting back gradually until you go from consuming 10 drinks a week to just one.

For each drink that you cut out per week, there will likely be noticeable improvements in both how much money you spend on alcohol as well as what you are able to accomplish during the week without a hangover.

Once you get down to just one or two drinks per week, you can start substituting more social events with sober activities, such as hiking , playing sports and visiting museums . If going out for dinner is too expensive, try meeting friends at a public park for a picnic instead.

Alcohol Lowers Inhibitions Conclusion:

Alcohol consumption is a serious problem that can lead to lower inhibitions, result in addiction and death. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use disorders affect nearly 17 million adults in America. The more you drink, the higher your risk of developing these problems becomes.

However, there are ways for people who want to cut back or quit drinking altogether to do so without feeling entirely deprived.

If you're looking for help with this process,  You can also reach out to a treatment provider to help you weigh up your treatment options.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

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