Alcohol consumption is a common social tradition that is actively practiced worldwide. It is a drink with a reputation for lowering inhibitions and creating a feeling of warmth and relaxation for the drinker. Alcohol alters brain activity, which affects bodily functioning and the senses to varying degrees depending on the type of alcohol and the person consuming it. These effects are not always adverse, but drinkers should be aware of them in order to maintain control over them.
Impaired Brain Activity
Alteration in use of the five senses after alcohol consumption is a result of impaired brain activity. Alcohol is a depressant drug, which means that it depresses nerve cells, affecting cell-to-cell communication and therefore function of the brain. It does not fire signals to the sensory cells as quickly or effectively, so the senses are dulled. These effects are generally mild after a few servings; however, loss of the senses can become a serious problem when a large volume has been consumed.
A common symptom of alcohol consumption, especially in large amounts, is blurred vision. The brain's neurotransmitters are unable to signal to the eyes to focus properly, therefore individuals under the influence of alcohol do not see as clearly. In situations of extreme intoxication, a person may not be able to see at all. As a result, driving or walking without supervision is extremely dangerous after drinking alcohol.
Smell and Taste
Although it is difficult for the intoxicated individual to realize it, his or her sense of taste and smell are dulled. The cells in the nose and mouth are not functioning at full capacity. Foods may seem to taste amazing due to being in an excited state. However, it will not taste nearly as good as it would without the influence of alcohol. The sense of smell is also impaired.
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Another common symptom of inebriation is a feeling of numbness in the fingers and toes. This dulled sense of touch can lead to a decrease in pain perception, such that an individual may not notice that he or she sustained an injury. This is often problematic and can have serious repercussions.
A loss of hearing during alcohol consumption is possible, but the change is usually not detectable to the person. Intoxicated individuals tend to talk and laugh louder than a sober person, which is a result of a combination of factors but is predominantly caused by impaired hearing.
Hannah Lane has been writing since 2010, specializing in nutrition-related articles. Lane holds a Master of Public Health in health promotion from George Washington University, and is currently pursing a PhD in human nutrition and exercise from Virginia Polytechnic University. Determined to conquer her own clumsiness, Lane has become an avid runner, biker and aspiring yogi.