Understanding the Effects of Alcohol and Drugs
Even though the number of deaths related to drunk driving accidents has declined significantly in the past 30 years, the staggering loss of life caused by drinking and driving indicates that many who drink or take drugs and then get behind the wheel of a car don’t fully understand the impact these substances can have on their mental and physical faculties. Here is what modern science knows about alcohol and drugs and how they impact users.
What Actually Happens to Alcohol in Your System
The physical process of taking in alcohol involves three steps: absorption, transportation and change. Initially, your body allows the alcohol to enter, or be absorbed, into your bloodstream. Next, the alcohol is carried or transported throughout your body by your blood, traveling to vital organs, such as your liver, kidneys and brain. Your body then seeks to transform, or change, the alcohol into a harmless substance, a process that can put great stress on bodily organs like the liver. According to research, any alcohol that you take in will be in your blood system within just half an hour, though this can vary based on several factors, including how much you had to eat and even your gender.
The Effect of Alcohol or Drugs on Your Ability to Drive
Alcohol is known as a depressant — that means that it slows down activity in your brain, including your response time to anything that happens to or around you. It tends to make users drowsy and can make it difficult for you to concentrate on the road. It often interferes with your ability to gather and assess what you see or hear, and it can cause you to focus on one task (looking at the centerline, for example) so that you miss other important information (such as a red light or stop sign).
Of course, a drug may be a stimulant, rather than a depressant. These substances can have a similar impact on your ability to drive, allowing you to misperceive time and distance. For example, you may not be able to properly judge how much time you must pull out in front of another vehicle, or even how close you are to the side of the road or to other vehicles.
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