You may have noticed the same amount of alcohol can have wildly different effects depending on who’s drinking. Those who can work their way through a few drinks before exhibiting typical effects of intoxication are dubbed “lightweights,” while their heavyweight counterparts–-able to work through an unruly amount of alcohol without a change in demeanor—are equated to being weak and tough respectively.
The truth is, a high alcohol tolerance can make drinking considerably more dangerous. From creeping blood alcohol levels to lifelong organ damage, learn what leads to tolerance buildup, why it can be so harmful, and how to get the alcohol addiction treatment you need most at Promises Washburn House.
Why is My Alcohol Tolerance So High?
Having a high alcohol tolerance is caused by a variety of factors, primarily how much alcohol you’ve had in the past. Drinking alcohol delivers dopamine, a chemical responsible for pleasure or motivation, straight to the brain. Your brain also makes its own share of dopamine, but when alcohol is sending dopamine regularly enough, the brain eases off its own production and allows alcohol to do its share. The longer this goes on, though, the less likely your brain is to expend much effort producing dopamine itself. After enough time, the amount of alcohol needed to meet the usual quota is substantially higher than it was before.
This principle is mostly what builds tolerance to alcohol, but there are other reasons you might find yourself with an especially high tolerance, even without a history of drinking. While it’s still a matter of research, some of the agreed-upon determinants of tolerance are sex, body size, and genetics. Males are often able to sustain more alcohol than their similarly weighted female counterparts, and larger people can handle more drinks than comparably lighter people. Another cause is thought to be different levels of specific enzymes in the body, either causing alcohol to break down faster or slower depending on their presence.
Is An Increased Alcohol Tolerance Good or Bad?
Being able to handle more alcohol than your peers sounds like an abject advantage to some, but in reality, having a high tolerance poses some serious risks. For one, a low tolerance sets a “soft ceiling” on how much alcohol a person consumes. Having an adverse bodily reaction, while unpleasant, is an inbuilt countermeasure to alcohol poisoning. Additionally, being more tolerant of alcohol doesn’t mean a heightened resistance to all of its effects; some of the more dangerous side effects of excess alcohol consumption are unavoidable.
With a high tolerance, a person is less prone to:
- Vomit or feel nauseous
- Pass/black out
- Stumble or lose balance
- Lose composure when speaking
With a high tolerance, a person is equally likely to:
- Act sluggish, react slowly
- Experience impaired vision (blurriness, worsened peripheral vision)
- Reach dangerous blood alcohol levels
- Sustain organ damage (especially the brain, heart, and liver)
Past a certain point, having a higher tolerance does not improve the ability to operate motor vehicles, either. BAC levels, which are examined for DUI testing, will not return to zero any faster. With a high tolerance, a person could feel fine while climbing to dangerous blood alcohol levels, or be mistakenly confident in their driving capabilities. Even though a high alcohol tolerance tends to be characterized as desirable, it carries a serious health risk not to be taken lightly.
Promises Can Help Bring Tolerance Back Down
Tolerance is, fortunately, not a one-way street. While it is significantly easier to heighten alcohol tolerance, the process of bringing it back down is part of the addiction recovery process. The same way the brain relinquishes production of dopamine to alcohol, it can also learn to resume on its own—it just needs time. At Promises Washburn House, we have specially curated programs for recovering from heavy drinking and lowering tolerance to the baseline for each individual.
If you’re ready to begin down the road to recovery, the best time is right now. Whether it’s your own or someone you care about, reach us at 855.298.3104 for treatment plans, concerns, or any other questions.