Short-Term Effects of Alcohol

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While the short-term effects of alcohol will not lead to the overnight development of alcohol use disorder, there are still many adverse outcomes from consuming too much alcohol.

The intoxicating ingredient found in beer, distilled spirits, and wine, alcohol is a psychotropic depressant of the CNS (central nervous system). Accordingly, when alcohol hits the brain, it starts slowing down the body’s systems.

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What are the short-term effects of alcohol, then?

Short Term Side Effects of Alcohol on the Body

Within a few minutes of consuming alcohol, the substance is absorbed into the bloodstream. This occurs through the small intestine and the blood vessels located in the stomach lining. 

Next, alcohol makes its way to the brain. It is here that the short-term effects of alcohol manifest. 

Alcohol’s short-term effects are contingent on the following variables: 

  • How much alcohol you consume
  • How rapidly you consume the alcohol
  • Weight
  • Gender
  • Body fat percentage
  • Whether or not you have eaten

The immediate effects of alcohol tend to make you feel relaxed and uninhibited. It can also induce giddiness. 

If you continue drinking, you will become intoxicated. The other most common signs of alcohol intoxication include: 

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Memory lapses
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Clumsiness
  • Distortion of perception and senses
  • Difficulties walking steadily

If the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream breaches a certain level, this can lead to alcohol toxicity, also called alcohol poisoning or alcohol overdose. Alcohol poisoning can be dangerous and possibly even fatal. 

When blood alcohol concentration is 0.5% or higher, alcohol overdose can be lethal. 

As a CNS depressant, alcohol can slow the breathing, causing an insufficiency of oxygen in the brain. 

The primary signs of alcohol poisoning are as follows: 

  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Low body temperature
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slow breathing
  • Blue hue to skin
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Occasionally, alcohol short-term effects can provoke an immediate feeling of sickness due to alcohol allergy, intolerance, or insensitivity. 

If this occurs, you can expect the following symptoms to present: 

  • Low blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Flushed face
  • Diarrhea

If you suddenly develop alcohol intolerance, you should consult your physician. They can help determine whether there is an underpinning medical condition – Hodgkin lymphoma, for instance. 

If you consume alcohol in combination with other depressants, whether OTC medications, prescription medications, or illicit drugs – this can impair functioning of both the CNS and the respiratory system. The following substances are especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol: 

  • Tranquilizers
  • Sleep aids
  • GHB
  • Ketamine
  • Rohypnol
Am image of a woman feeling a hangover, a short-term effect of alcohol

Hangover is the other unsavory short-term effect of alcohol. If you consume too much alcohol over the day, you will feel the effects when you wake. This happens due to the toxicity of alcohol and your body’s attempt to process those toxins. 

Dehydration triggers many of the most common hangover symptoms. Additionally, some alcoholic drinks contain chemicals that provoke a reaction in the brain and blood vessels, further inflaming symptoms. 

Expect to encounter the following symptoms when hungover: 

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness
  • Problems with focus
  • Dry mouth
  • Racing heart
  • Dry eyes

Roughly 20% of alcohol is absorbed directly through the stomach. The bulk of the remaining 80% is absorbed via the small intestine. 

Of the alcohol consumed, around 5% leaves through the skin, kidneys, and lungs. The liver processes the remainder. Unfortunately, the liver can only process one standard drink at a time, according to NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). If you consume alcohol at a more rapid rate, your system can become saturated with the substance. 

Hangovers often last for 24 hours. If you have been drinking heavily, it is medically inadvisable to drink again for 48 hours. This gives the body time to recover. 

How, then, can you mitigate the effects of alcohol? 

Reducing the Effects of Alcohol

Here are some strategies to consider if you are looking to minimize the short-term effects of alcohol: 

  • Eat before consuming alcohol
  • Pick your drinks carefully
  • Stay hydrated with plenty of water
  • Drink orange juice
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks
  • Eat eggs
  • Take some medications
  • Get some sleep
  • Don’t drink more alcohol

Eat before consuming alcohol

After you consume alcohol, it initially stays in the stomach, waiting to be processed. Without food in your stomach, alcohol will process quicker and all at once. Food in the stomach slows the pace at which alcohol enters your system, immediately lessening the effects. 

Pick your drinks carefully

Congeners are substances in alcoholic drinks produced during the fermentation phase and liable to cause a hangover. 

Pale beers and white wines contain fewer congeners than hard liquors and darker beers. Avoid red wine, whisky, and brandy if you are looking to reduce the likelihood of suffering from a bad hangover after drinking. 

Additionally, inexpensive and impure alcohol tends to produce a worse hangover, causing your body to expend more energy processing the impurities. Consider instead clear alcohols like white rum, gin, or vodka. 

Stay hydrated with plenty of water

Before you start drinking alcohol, consume plenty of water throughout the day. You should then consider interweaving glasses of water between alcohol drinks. This will help to reduce dehydration, one of the main causes of a hangover

Drink a large glass of water before you sleep and more water when you wake up. 

Drink orange juice

Orange juice is rich in vitamin C and helps to restore energy. Many juices also contain fructose. This will help replenish sugars in the body

If you’re not a fan of OJ, coconut water and tomato juice also work well. 

Avoid caffeinated drinks

Coffee has a reputation for curing hangovers, but this is a myth. Coffee will dehydrate you even more and may also irritate an upset stomach. 

Eat eggs

Eggs contain cysteine, an amino acid that can soak up some of the toxins alcohol introduced to the system. 

Sidestep raw eggs – another hangover myth – and stick with some fried or scrambled egg whites to help tamp down some of the effects of alcohol. 

Take some medications

Prescription NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications) like naproxen and ibuprofen can soothe headaches associated with hangover. 

Avoid Tylenol (acetaminophen) as this can place extra burden on your liver, potentially causing swelling. 

Get some sleep

Sleeping will help to restore balance after a hangover, so skip the coffee and get into bed instead. 

Don’t drink more alcohol

While some people feel drinking a small amount of alcohol – the hair of the dog – helps alleviate a hangover, all you will do is prolong the effects of the alcohol consumed. Although you may temporarily numb your symptoms, you will likely worsen the hangover by drinking more alcohol. 

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How to Recover from the Short-Term Effects of Alcohol at California Detox

Here at California Detox, we offer treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction at all levels on ASAM’s continuum of care, including: 

  • Medical detox services
  • Inpatient programs (residential rehab)
  • OPs (outpatient programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • Virtual IOPs (remote rehab)

After a week or so of alcohol detox, you will be physically prepared to address the psychological side of alcohol addiction through ongoing therapy in an inpatient, outpatient, or virtual setting. 

We also offer dual diagnosis treatment programs for those with alcohol addictions and co-occurring mental health conditions. 

All of our treatment programs offer you access to the following evidence-based and holistic interventions: 

  • Group counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • Holistic therapies

Reach out to California Detox today and connect with personalized treatment for alcohol abuse. Call admissions at 949.567.8790.


Short-term effects of alcohol on the liver typically manifest if you consume more than one standard drink within one hour. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol on an ongoing basis will impair the ability of your liver to efficiently process fat. Over time, this short-term effect can develop into fatty liver disease, the first stage of alcoholic liver disease.
Consuming alcohol produces immediate short-term effects on the brain. Your judgment will be impaired, and your inhibitions lowered. You will experience problems with memory, too. Additionally, alcohol alters the levels of chemical messengers in the brain known as neurotransmitters, leading to slurred speech and reduced reaction times.


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