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Is There Such A Thing As Building A Tolerance To Alcohol?

An expert explains why you feel more drunk on some days.

Although Christmas celebrations this year will be very different due to the pandemic, it's possible you'll still be enjoying a few glasses of wine at some point over the festive period.

However, one question we've always thought about (especially around this time of year) is whether or not there's such a thing as building up a tolerance to alcohol—and by that we mean, why is it that on some days you can happily sip a couple of glasses of wine and feel relatively sober, but on others two chardonnays will see you attempting to do the splits while drunk texting your ex? Is it because you're "out of practice'" when it comes to drinking or is there another reason?

According to Priory addiction expert Dr. Niall Campbell, a lot of it can be down to what you've eaten—or not eaten—that day. "People will get more drunk on an empty stomach, and how drunk you get depends on the concentration of what you drink and the size of the glass it comes in," he explains. "Alcohol strength in drinks ranges [for example, when looking at wines and champagnes] from say seven percent in Asti Spumante (a sparkling wine) to 11 percent in something like a Prosecco,  to 14 percent or more in some Shiraz or Chilean Merlots."

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Woman feeling drunk

He added that your mood and weight also has an impact. "Body weight also comes into play, and mood, when it comes to getting drunk. Psychologically you're likely to drink more if you are in company and feeling merry, and you'll probably forget how much you have had, or certainly underestimate it."

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On the tolerance front, when asked whether or not that's a myth, Dr. Campbell told Cosmopolitan: "Tolerance only really applies to those drinking heavily and consistently. They build up 'tolerance' and appear less intoxicated than others, but it doesn't mean they aren't going to see the effects of excess drinking over time." Such effects can include liver poisoning. He added, "[Some heavy drinkers] start getting alcohol hepatitis, a diseased inflammatory liver condition caused by heavy consumption and aggravated by binge drinking and ongoing alcohol use. If you are diagnosed with alcohol hepatitis you must stop drinking."

If you are worried about your liver or your general physical or mental health, seek out medical advice or consult your physician to discuss your concerns.


This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.