How Alcohol Can Cloud a Person’s Judgement and Lead to Poor Decisions

After a few drinks, you might feel like everything is going great. You're not just feeling less inhibited; your brain actually thinks that it's doing better than ever. But the truth is less rosy: Alcohol impairs judgment and leads to bad decisions. The more people drink, the worse they do on tests of cognitive function - so even if you think you're having fun while drinking heavily, chances are your performance in school or at work will suffer when it comes time to make decisions sober again.

Alcohol as a Depressant

In a study by Karen M. Dodd, she found that when people are drinking, they tend to chat with others and may become more open than usual and share things about themselves that they wouldn't normally say.

Research has shown that alcohol acts on the anterior portion of the prefrontal cortex (the front most part of your brain) which is involved with decision-making and impulse control. This means we need this area to behave properly so we can regulate our impulses such as controlling what we say or do instead of blurting out something hurtful or doing something embarrassing.

Alcohol seems to have a specific effect on the cognitive process that leads to the inhibition of certain actions. This means that when you've had a few shots, it's harder for you to control yourselves. You are less able to control what you say or do, resulting in sloppier behavior and worse decisions.

How Alcohol Affects the Brain, Body and Social Interaction 

When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed by the lining of your stomach and small intestine. Then it passes through to the bloodstream and throughout your brain and body. Alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells in your brain, which might cause slurred speech, clumsiness or a loss of balance, slow reaction time and a lack of coordination. It may also affect your vision.

On average, about 90% of the alcohol that a person drinks enters the bloodstream through their stomach so this makes sense why people get so intoxicated on an empty stomach. However for some people this amount can be less due to genetics or certain medications they are taking. Alcohol also bonds to the water in your body, so it's impossible for you to drink more water than what your body can handle.

Alcohol's Effect on Hormones

Alcohol affects the brain by slowing down chemical messengers. These are the signals that help with thinking, feeling and acting. Alcohol makes these signals slower so it takes longer for information to get from one place to another in your brain. This slows down the processing of information which could lead you to do or say something you may regret later.

A study conducted in 2010 found that alcohol can disrupt hormones in our bodies making us more interested in seeking out sexual partners even when we don't really want them around, let alone have sex necessarily. This is because when we drink alcohol, our testosterone levels drop while estrogen levels increase. Researchers have found that even drinking just one beer could be responsible for this huge difference, so imagine how much more alcohol it takes to influence the hormones in our bodies to act in such a way.

Alcohol's Effects on Judgment

When alcohol is in our bodies it takes over the brain's communication center, which can make us more impulsive and lose self-control. This means we are more likely to behave in socially unacceptable ways.

Effects of Alcohol on Decision Making

When we drink alcohol, it slows down the brain and our ability to control impulses. We tend to show less sensitivity toward other people and may fail to consider how they might be feeling or what their actions could mean. When we are intoxicated, it is hard to know how much is too much or whether someone may have had too much to drink.

This can make it easier for people to behave in ways they normally would not, such as using violence or having sex with someone they might not want to.

When you start drinking alcohol and continue to drink more and more each time, your brain starts building a tolerance toward the effects of this beverage which means that you need to keep on drinking more and more to feel the same effects as before.

Preventing Alcoholic Behaviors

Alcohol has a tendency to make people feel more confident and less inhibited, which may cause them to behave in ways that they would not when sober and that they might later regret. There are ways to avoid these behaviors:

  • Don't drink if you know you're going to be tempted by the sight of an attractive stranger or buddy who is trying to get you alone with him/her 
  • Have a glass of water between drinks so your judgment isn't impaired but you can still safely get home without having too many drinks 
  • Eat food before drinking alcohol so your stomach won't be empty causing alcohol to enter your bloodstream faster than usual


Alcohol consumption is a significant public health issue in the United States. There are more than 88,000 deaths every year related to alcohol consumption and an estimated 26 million people suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence. In order for consumers to make informed decisions about how much they drink, it's important that they understand not only how their own bodies will react but also those of others around them as well as what kind of social interactions they may have when drinking. The many effects of alcohol can range from blackouts and accidents to judgment impairment and decision making difficulties which could lead someone to make dangerous choices such as driving while intoxicated or unprotected sex with strangers without considering STD risks. 


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