What Are the Differences Between Being Drunk and Being High?

Discover the differences between being drunk and being high. From brain function to legal considerations, get the facts you need!

Understanding Being Drunk and Being High

When examining the differences between being drunk and being high, it's important to understand the distinct effects of alcohol and drugs on the body and mind. Intoxication from alcohol and drugs can lead to various physiological and psychological changes, but the specific experiences differ.

Intoxication: Alcohol vs. Drugs

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that slows down brain function and nerve impulses. When consumed, alcohol affects the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, resulting in a decrease in brain activity and often making a person feel relaxed or drowsy. The effects of alcohol intoxication can vary depending on factors such as the amount consumed, the rate of consumption, and an individual's tolerance.

On the other hand, drugs, including marijuana, can have psychoactive effects on the brain. When someone is high on drugs, such as marijuana, it affects the neurotransmitter dopamine and part of the brain's reward system. This can lead to feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and an altered perception of time and space [1]. The specific effects of drug intoxication can vary depending on the type of drug used, its potency, and an individual's unique response.

Factors Affecting Intoxication Effects

Several factors influence the effects of being drunk or high. For example, gender plays a role in how alcohol affects individuals. Women tend to experience the effects of alcohol more quickly and for longer periods compared to men. This is because women generally have less tissue to absorb alcohol, more body fat, and lower levels of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol, making them more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.

Age is another significant factor. Children and young people are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol due to their smaller size and weight, which leads to quicker effects on their bodies. On the other hand, older adults may feel the effects more severely if they consume the same amount of alcohol as they did in adulthood due to increased body fat and decreased body water.

Other factors affecting the rate and intensity of intoxication include body weight, consumption on an empty stomach, and the type of drink consumed. People with lower body weight tend to feel the effects of alcohol more quickly due to having less tissue to absorb it. Drinking on an empty stomach can result in faster absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Additionally, the type of drink can impact the rate of alcohol absorption, with alcohol mixed with water or fruit juice being absorbed more slowly than alcohol mixed with fizzy drinks or mixers [2].

Understanding the distinctions between being drunk and being high is crucial for individuals to make informed decisions and understand the potential risks associated with alcohol and drug use. By recognizing the unique effects of each, individuals can better navigate legal and safety considerations and seek appropriate treatment if needed.

Effects of Being Drunk

When it comes to the effects of being drunk, it's important to understand both the immediate impact on brain function and the potential long-term consequences of chronic alcohol abuse.

Impact on Brain Function

Alcohol, as a central nervous system depressant, affects the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA plays a crucial role in reducing brain activity, leading to feelings of relaxation and drowsiness. As a result, being drunk can cause a decrease in brain function and impaired cognitive abilities.

Physical Effects of Alcohol Intoxication

Physically, being drunk can manifest in various ways. Common physical effects of alcohol intoxication include slurred speech, impaired coordination, and slowed reaction times. These impairments can significantly impact a person's ability to perform tasks that require motor skills and judgment.

The effects of alcohol can also vary based on factors such as weight, age, and the presence of food in the stomach. Women tend to be more affected by alcohol due to differences in body composition, such as having less tissue to absorb alcohol, higher body fat levels, and lower levels of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol when compared to men. Additionally, age plays a role, with both children/young people and older adults experiencing varying impacts due to their respective body compositions.

Long-Term Effects of Chronic Alcohol Abuse

Long-term alcohol abuse can have serious health consequences. Chronic heavy drinking can lead to liver damage, heart problems, and an increased risk of certain cancers. It can also cause psychological and cognitive impairments, affecting memory, attention, and decision-making abilities. Prolonged alcohol abuse can result in addiction and dependency, making it challenging to quit without proper treatment and support [2].

Understanding the effects of being drunk is essential not only to recognize the immediate impact on brain function and physical abilities but also to be aware of the potential long-term consequences of chronic alcohol abuse. Seeking treatment and support for alcohol addiction is critical for those struggling with alcohol abuse and its associated health risks.

Effects of Being High

When it comes to the effects of being high, it is important to understand how drugs interact with the brain's reward system, the physical effects of drug intoxication, and the potential long-term effects of chronic drug use.

Interaction with Brain's Reward System

When an individual consumes drugs, such as marijuana, the active compound THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) interacts with the brain's reward system. THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors in brain areas that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination, and sensory and time perception [3]. This interaction can lead to the experience of euphoria and altered perception.

Physical Effects of Drug Intoxication

The physical effects of drug intoxication can vary depending on the type of drug used. For example, marijuana use can lead to impairments in thinking, learning, and performing complicated tasks due to THC's interference with the functioning of the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex in the brain [3]. THC also disrupts the functioning of the cerebellum and basal ganglia, which regulate balance, posture, coordination, and reaction time. This can impact activities such as driving safely, playing sports, or engaging in physical activities after marijuana use.

Long-Term Effects of Chronic Drug Use

Long-term drug use, especially when it becomes chronic, can have significant consequences on both mental and physical health. Prolonged marijuana use may lead to memory impairment, difficulties in thinking and problem-solving, and mood changes [4]. The prolonged use of other drugs can also have detrimental effects on various aspects of a person's life, including their physical and mental well-being.

It's important to note that the long-term effects of chronic drug use can vary depending on the specific drug and individual factors. It is always advisable to seek professional help and support if you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction.

Understanding the effects of being high is crucial in raising awareness about the potential risks and consequences of drug use. By staying informed, individuals can make informed decisions about their substance use and seek appropriate help if needed.

Comparison: Being Drunk vs. Being High

To understand the differences between being drunk and being high, it's important to examine the neurotransmitter interactions, impairment and behavioral effects, as well as legal and safety considerations associated with each state.

Neurotransmitter Interactions

Alcohol primarily acts on the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain [5]. The activation of this system by cannabis alters brain function, mood, and perception.

Impairment and Behavioral Effects

Being drunk can result in slurred speech, motor impairment, and decreased inhibitions, which can lead to risky behaviors and poor decision-making [1].

Legal and Safety Considerations

The legality of alcohol consumption varies by region, with most jurisdictions allowing its use for adults. However, it's important to note that consuming alcohol impairs an individual's ability to drive or operate machinery safely. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid driving or performing tasks that require focus and attention while under the influence of alcohol [6].

Similarly, the legality of marijuana consumption varies depending on the location. While some states have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, it is essential to understand and comply with the laws governing the use of marijuana in different regions. Like alcohol, being high on marijuana can impair an individual's ability to drive or operate machinery safely, making it important to refrain from such activities while under the influence.

In conclusion, being drunk and being high involve different neurotransmitter interactions, result in distinct impairment and behavioral effects, and have varying legal and safety considerations. Understanding these differences can help individuals make informed decisions about their substance use and ensure the well-being of themselves and others.

Seeking Treatment for Addiction

When it comes to addressing addiction, seeking treatment is essential for individuals struggling with alcohol or drug dependence. Treatment approaches for alcohol addiction and drug addiction may share similarities, but they also have their own unique considerations.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Treatment for alcohol addiction often involves a comprehensive approach to address the physical and psychological aspects of dependence. The process may begin with medical detoxification, where individuals are closely monitored to manage withdrawal symptoms that can occur when alcohol use is abruptly stopped. Medical professionals may administer medications to alleviate discomfort and minimize health risks during this initial phase.

Following detoxification, therapy and counseling play a crucial role in alcohol addiction treatment. Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing, are commonly used to help individuals understand and modify their thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes towards alcohol. These therapies aim to foster new coping skills, build healthier habits, and address underlying issues contributing to alcohol abuse.

Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), can provide a valuable network of individuals who have experienced similar challenges. These groups offer a supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences, gain insights, and receive ongoing encouragement on their journey to recovery.

In some cases, medications may be prescribed to assist in alcohol addiction treatment. These medications can help manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and support sobriety. The specific medications used may vary depending on individual needs and the recommendations of healthcare professionals.

Drug Addiction Treatment

Treatment for drug addiction follows a similar approach, focusing on detoxification, counseling, and support networks. Medical detoxification may be necessary to manage withdrawal symptoms and ensure the safety and comfort of individuals during the initial stages of treatment.

Counseling and therapy are integral components of drug addiction treatment. Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), are commonly employed to address the underlying reasons for drug abuse and develop healthier coping mechanisms. These therapies can help individuals identify triggers, modify negative thought patterns, and acquire skills to prevent relapse.

Medications may also be utilized as part of drug addiction treatment. These medications can help individuals manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and restore balance to brain chemistry. The specific medications prescribed will depend on the substance being abused and individual circumstances, and they are often used in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies.

Support networks, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or other mutual aid groups, provide a valuable source of ongoing support and encouragement. These groups offer a sense of community and understanding, allowing individuals to connect with others who have faced similar challenges and foster a sense of belonging.

Seeking treatment for alcohol addiction or drug addiction is a crucial step towards recovery. It is important to remember that addiction is a complex condition, and treatment approaches should be tailored to meet an individual's specific needs. By combining medical interventions, therapy, counseling, and support, individuals can embark on a path to a healthier and more fulfilling life.


[1]: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/health-complications-addiction/central-nervous-system

[2]: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/what-happens-when-you-drink-alcohol

[3]: https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/how-does-marijuana-produce-its-effects

[4]: https://www.healthline.com/health/what-does-it-feel-like-to-be-drunk

[5]: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/marijuana-use-and-its-effects

[6]: https://americanaddictioncenters.org/health-complications-addiction/permanent-effects

Lacey has worked for over a decade as a writer, in conjunction with having worked around the world in poor social and economic living conditions to provide sustainability programs through numerous non-profits. Her efforts focus on making a difference in people's lives one small step at a time.