When you drink large amounts of alcohol, you’ll feel the effects throughout your body—from your brain to your stomach and gastrointestinal system, as well as in your tongue’s ability to form words, causing you to speak less distinctly.
Shortly after you begin drinking, you feel more relaxed, social, maybe even talkative. If you continue drinking, you may feel sleepy. After drinking two drinks, your reflexes the reaction times will slow down, which makes driving dangerous. At this point, you’re likely to start slurring your speech as you try to form words. If you keep drinking after this, you run the risk of memory loss, slowed breathing, double vision, dizziness, vomiting, and even passing out, coma, or death.
When Does Your Speech Slur?
When your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches around 0.1%, you’ll notice that you have trouble forming words correctly. Your tongue seems to work less efficiently, leading to your speech sounding fuzzy or slurred.
Because this change is noticeable at a specific BAC, law enforcement officers often use slurred speech as a sign that someone is highly intoxicated (0.1% is well over the driving limit of 0.08%). Producing individual words requires your tongue and mouth to use fine motor control, working together and timing each movement so speech is clear. After becoming drunk, this task becomes nearly impossible for your brain to carry out.
After drinking large amounts of alcohol, you may omit words, revise them, and break up suffixes as you try to coordinate tongue, voice box, and mouth so that you can be understood. Your speech may even be affected when your BAC is lower than 0.1%. You may struggle to find words and speak more slowly. But your speech is unlikely to begin to sound slurred until your BAC reaches 0.1%.
Why Does Alcohol Affect the Way I Speak?
The presence of alcohol in your brain affects how much gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is present; it increases the amount, or at least increases its effects. If you have too much GABA in your brain, it can’t process the information your body is trying to send. Thus, your movements are slowed, your perception of time changes, and you slur your speech.
Alcohol also affects a specific type of neuron (the Purkinje neurons) that control muscle coordination/memory. These special neurons are found in the cerebellum of your brain—when you repeat motions over and over, these neurons convert these motions into muscle memory.
Broca’s area, and a supplementary motor area, are also involved in creating speech. Alcohol affects each area, depending on differences such as weight, gender, age, and tolerance for alcohol. The only real counter to this is if you have a higher language processing ability; this may allow you to have less slurred speech due to your brain’s ability to process language more efficiently.
If you suffer from chronic alcohol abuse, your speech may be slurred all the time. If so, this is a symptom of brain damage from alcohol abuse.
What Factors Control How Much Alcohol Affects Me?
No matter whether your body handles and excretes liquor more efficiently than other people, nobody can drink to a BAC of 0.1% without being negatively affected by alcohol. However, drinking alcohol may cause some effects for you that others may not feel, or vice versa.
Various factors will affect how alcohol impacts you:
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on Speech
Research has shown that long-term heavy drinking can have a negative impact on your ability to communicate, and not just because of slurring, long-term alcoholism can lessen your ability to express your emotions through your tone of voice. For instance, even though you may be anticipating seeing someone later on, your vocal tone doesn’t communicate this when you say, “See you later.” - it can’t. So now, you sound as if you may be being sarcastic, and you don’t want to see them later. Alcoholics find it much more difficult to inject their true feelings into what they are saying. They are less expressive and their voice may also be quieter.
Additionally, an alcoholics ability to determine someone else’s emotions through their facial expressions is damaged. Even after abstaining from alcohol for several months, they may have trouble decoding facial expressions such as anger, sadness, happiness, or disgust. The term for this is social cognition (ability to process and apply information about others, as well as maintaining that information) and, even after being abstinent from alcohol for a time, they still find it harder to name emotions in other people. This means that long-term alcohol use affects the brain’s ability to decode facial expressions and voices.
This effect isn’t confined to humans. Research has shown that drunk birds (finches, specifically) don’t sing as loudly and their vocal sounds are less organized. When finches are sober, their song is made up of distinct syllables, but when you get them drunk, they slide from one syllable to another, without their natural, distinct sounds coming through. In short, their singing is slurred, much in the same way your speech is when you drink heavily.
Signs of Alcohol Poisoning
Though alcohol is legal in every state, as long as drinking is restricted to people over 21 years of age, it is toxic when you drink too much. People who have had too much to drink display many symptoms of intoxication: they have poor coordination and stumble, they slur their words, they may want to sleep, and may pass out.
If someone has an excessive amount of alcohol within a short time frame, they are at risk of alcohol poisoning. Along with being toxic at certain levels, it is a depressant. It slows down your heart rate and breathing, along with other functions of the body. If your liver is overwhelmed by the amount of liquor you are drinking, it can’t keep up its role of processing the toxins in the drinks you had. Those toxins stay in your bloodstream and cause alcohol poisoning or overdose.
With the excess of depressant in your system, unable to be removed by your liver, and more pumping into your body from your stomach lining and intestines as what you drank is absorbed, alcohol poisoning sets in. You may just fall asleep and have a terrible hangover. Or, if you’ve put enough into your body at once, you may go into a coma. If the coma continues and no one realizes what’s happening, you will likely stop breathing and die.
If You Have a Drinking Problem, Get Help Today.
Having a few drinks to celebrate a special occasion is one thing. If you don’t drink often, your body can flush the toxins out of your systems efficiently. If you get buzzed or drunk, you may experience dizziness, nausea, and slurred speech, which will likely resolve itself in a few hours.
If you drink heavily or binge drink, your body may have a more difficult time flushing the toxins out. Even worse, if you binge drink regularly, you may be developing an addiction to alcohol.
If you suffer from alcoholism, then the effects of alcohol are going to impact every part your body, from your brain to your bones. Don’t wait until you risk overdose and death. Make sure you deal with any signs of alcohol addiction right away, whether you notice the signs in yourself or someone else. A wild night isn’t worth your life.