Drinking alcohol can lead to intoxication, which is commonly known as being drunk. Even the smallest amounts of alcohol can have an effect on the body and mind but there are some distinct stages of drunkenness.
Tipsiness is generally considered to be the first stage or stages of drunkenness. It’s important to remember, however, that even low levels of alcohol intake can affect your judgement, reactions and other elements of physical and mental performance.
Defining Drunk vs Tipsy
When it comes to defining tipsy vs drunk, you first have to define what you mean by ‘tipsy’. There is no official or medical definition of tipsiness and the dictionary definition is simply ‘slightly intoxicated or drunk’. This means that being tipsy vs drunk is largely subjective in terms of where exactly one passes into the other.
In general terms though, tipsiness can be considered to be the earliest stages of intoxication. Drunkenness is generally considered to be a more advanced stage of intoxication, when the drinker has less control and the effects of alcohol are more pronounced.
Early signs of intoxication – which could be describes as being tipsy can include:
- A sense of happiness or euphoria
- Increased confidence, talkativeness
- Feeling more relaxed
- Lowered inhibitions
Although these feelings are generally positive for most people, some people can also experience negative reactions such as dizziness or anxiety – even from small amounts of alcohol. Tipsiness will also be accompanied by impairments including:
- Impaired judgement and memory
- Reduced alertness
- Loss of motor skills such as balance
- Difficulties in processing information
If you continue to drink, you will pass into more advanced stages of intoxication. The impairment aspects will become more pronounced and you may also start to experience other effects such as slurred speech, impaired vision and nausea. Your emotions might also be affected. Alcohol is a depressant and you might experience mood swings, sadness or aggressive feelings.
Advanced stages of intoxication can be dangerous, increasing the risks of accident or illness. Drinking large amounts can also lead to alcohol poisoning, which is when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support functions start to shut down. Symptoms can include mental confusion, difficulty staying conscious, severe motor skill impairment (such as being unable to stand), difficulty breathing and lowered body temperature.
The Physical and Psychological Effects of Alcohol
Although the effects of alcohol can vary from one person to the next, the amounts of alcohol in the system can be measured using blood alcohol concentration (BAC). This can be described as the amount of alcohol in mg per 100ml of blood, or as a percentage. In England and Wales, for example, the legal drink driving limit is 80mg/100ml blood or 0.08.
Numerous studies have been conducted to gauge the impact of low levels of alcohol intake, particularly to underpin drink driving laws in different countries. It has been found that alcohol-induced driving impairment can occur with any departure from a zero-blood alcohol concentration (BAC) – in other words, even the smallest amounts of alcohol can have a negative effect.
Driving performance and associated psychomotor functioning were shown to become “significantly impaired” below legally permissible driving limits in some jurisdictions (typically a BAC between 0.05% and 0.08%). Interestingly, while the drinker’s actual ability to drive safely becomes worse, their confidence in their own driving increases.
Alcohol works as a sedative and depressant but it is also believed to affect the pleasure or reward centres of the brain, releasing ‘feel-good’ chemicals including dopamine and serotonin. In the early stages of intoxication – often described as the tipsy stage – this can produces those feelings of well-being, relaxation, lack of inhibition and euphoria. They may also be accompanied by physiological changes such as flushing, sweating, increased heart rate and increases in blood pressure.
People will tend to enter an ‘excited’ stage of intoxication at around 100 mg/100 ml or 0.1 BAC. This level of intoxication affects the occipital lobe, temporal lobe and frontal lobe in your brain and can result in a number of effects including blurred vision, slurred speech and lack of control. This stage is also often accompanied by mood swings. The drinker may become sick. A BAC of 0.18 to 0.3 will usually lead to confusion, as well as increasing impairment. A BAC of 0.25 can lead to a stupor (passing out) and will put you at risk of alcohol poisoning. A BAC of 0.35 puts you at risk of entering a coma and 0.40 could be fatal.
When to Seek Help
Regularly drinking alcohol can increase your tolerance to it, effectively meaning you need to drink more and more to achieve the same perceived effects. This can make the effects of drunk vs tipsy stretch a little further but it’s worth remembering that you will still be impaired when it comes to things like reaction times and decision-making while driving.
If you find it difficult to stick to responsible drinking habits and find that you often pass from the tipsy stage to drunkenness, binge drinking and essentially having no ‘off switch’, you might have a drinking problem that needs addressing.
Some common signs of a growing addiction can include:
- Needing to drink more for the same effect
- Craving alcohol
- Feeling ill-effects (withdrawal symptoms) when you don’t drink
- Feeling anxious about when you will next be able to drink
- Drinking at inappropriate times and places
- Avoiding situations where you cannot drink
Alcohol is an addictive substance and it can be extremely difficult to kick without expert help. There are a number of approaches to addiction treatment but the most effective is generally considered to be inpatient or residential rehab. This can help you to get through the difficult and potentially dangerous stage known as detox, which can be accompanied by physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, as well as addressing the root causes of your substance misuse.
If you are worried about your own drinking, or that of a loved one, get in touch today to find out how Cassiobury Court can help.