What Are the Differences Between Being Drunk and Being High?

April 5, 2024

Discover the differences between being drunk and being high. Uncover the effects on behavior, health, and more.

Understanding Intoxication

Intoxication can occur through the consumption of alcohol or cannabis, each having distinct effects on the body and mind. Understanding the differences between being drunk and being high is essential in comprehending their unique characteristics.

Effects on Brain Communication

Alcohol consumption interferes with the brain's communication pathways, impacting mood, behavior, clarity of thought, and coordination. It reduces communication between the brain and body, leading to symptoms such as slurred speech and impaired coordination. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can damage the central nervous system, potentially resulting in numbness, tingling in the hands and feet, and even permanent brain damage.

On the other hand, cannabis affects brain communication differently. It works by mimicking anandamide, an endocannabinoid neurotransmitter, and releasing higher levels of dopamine. This mechanism contributes to the various psychological and physiological effects of being high [3]. The specific impact of cannabis on brain communication can vary depending on the strain and individual factors, leading to altered perception, mood changes, and altered cognitive function.

Impact on Behavior and Coordination

Alcohol's influence on behavior and coordination is well-documented. It can lead to disinhibition, impaired judgment, and increased risk-taking. Alcohol's sedative effects can make individuals feel drowsy and aid in falling asleep faster. However, it disrupts the sleep cycle by inhibiting proper REM sleep, causing frequent waking, nightmares, and vivid dreams [4]. These effects can contribute to impaired motor skills, compromised balance, and reduced reaction time.

In contrast, the impact of cannabis on behavior and coordination varies. Some individuals may experience relaxation, altered perception of time, and heightened sensory experiences. Others may experience increased anxiety or temporary impairment of motor skills. The effects of cannabis on coordination can depend on various factors, including the strain, potency, and individual tolerance.

Understanding the distinctions between being drunk and being high is crucial for individuals to make informed choices about substance use. It's important to note that both alcohol and cannabis can have adverse effects on physical and mental well-being, and the risks associated with their use should be carefully considered.

Alcohol's Effects on the Body

Alcohol consumption can have various detrimental effects on the body, particularly on organs like the heart, liver, and pancreas. Additionally, there is a clear association between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of certain types of cancers.

Heart and Liver Damage

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to heart damage. Alcohol interferes with the brain's communication pathways, affecting mood, behavior, clarity of thought, and coordination. Over time, heavy drinking can weaken the heart muscle, leading to conditions such as cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, and even heart failure.

The liver is also greatly impacted by alcohol consumption. Heavy drinking can result in various liver problems and inflammations [1]. One of the most well-known liver conditions caused by alcohol is alcoholic hepatitis, which involves inflammation and liver cell damage. Prolonged alcohol abuse can progress to more severe liver diseases such as cirrhosis, where healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue, impeding liver function.

Pancreatic and Cancer Risks

Another organ affected by alcohol consumption is the pancreas. Alcohol can cause the pancreas to produce harmful substances that may result in pancreatitis, an inflammatory condition affecting the pancreas. Pancreatitis can range from mild to severe, and repeated episodes can lead to chronic pancreatitis, which can cause permanent damage.

Furthermore, alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers. There are clear patterns emerging between alcohol consumption and cancer risks [1]. Alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast, and colorectal area. The risk of developing these cancers increases with higher levels of alcohol consumption.

Understanding the effects of alcohol on the body is crucial for making informed decisions about alcohol consumption. It is important to be mindful of the potential harms that excessive alcohol use can have on vital organs like the heart, liver, and pancreas, as well as the increased risk of certain cancers. Moderation and responsible drinking are key to maintaining good health and well-being.

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects

Understanding the effects of alcohol and cannabis on the body is essential for recognizing the differences between being drunk and being high. Both substances have short-term and long-term effects that can impact physical and mental well-being.

Immediate Symptoms of Alcohol Use

Alcohol can interfere with the brain's communication pathways, affecting mood, behavior, clarity of thought, and coordination. Short-term effects of alcohol use can include lowered inhibitions, relaxation, and impaired judgment. These effects might show up quickly after just one drink or develop after a few drinks, such as loss of consciousness or slurred speech.

Long-Term Physical and Mental Well-Being

Long-term alcohol use can have detrimental effects on physical and mental well-being. Frequent alcohol consumption can lead to various health concerns, including damage to the heart, liver, pancreas, and increased risks for certain types of cancer [1]. Chronic alcohol use can also weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and diseases [2].

Alcohol's impact on the central nervous system can result in long-term damage, including numbness, tingling in the hands and feet, and potential permanent brain damage [2]. Heavy drinking is associated with conditions like Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which affects memory and cognitive function.

The digestive system is also affected by alcohol consumption, leading to damage to the digestive tract, malnutrition, and the potential development of ulcers [2]. Additionally, alcohol can weaken the immune system, increasing the risk of pneumonia and tuberculosis, with alcohol consumption accounting for a significant percentage of tuberculosis cases worldwide.

It is important to note that the effects of alcohol can vary depending on the amount consumed and individual factors such as overall health and frequency of use. Moderation and responsible consumption are key to minimizing the potential long-term effects of alcohol.

Understanding the short-term and long-term effects of alcohol is essential for making informed decisions regarding its use. It is advised to consult with healthcare professionals for personalized guidance on alcohol consumption and its potential impact on physical and mental well-being.

Alcohol's Impact on Health

Alcohol consumption can have significant effects on various aspects of health. In this section, we will explore the impact of alcohol on the digestive system and the immune system, as well as its potential for brain damage.

Digestive System Effects

Excessive alcohol consumption can have detrimental effects on the digestive system. It can damage the tissues in the digestive tract, impairing proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, which can lead to malnutrition. Additionally, heavy drinking can cause ulcers that may result in internal bleeding.

Long-term abuse of alcohol can lead to a condition called gastritis, which involves inflammation and irritation of the stomach lining. This can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Prolonged heavy drinking may also contribute to the development of more severe conditions like pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas, and liver disease.

Immune System and Brain Damage

Alcohol consumption has a negative impact on the immune system. Heavy and prolonged drinking weakens the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections and diseases. For example, alcohol abuse can increase the risk of developing pneumonia or tuberculosis, with the World Health Organization attributing about 8.1% of global tuberculosis cases to alcohol consumption.

Furthermore, alcohol's effect on the brain can be damaging. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can cause changes in the brain, including the shrinking of brain cells and potentially reducing brain size. These changes can affect various cognitive functions such as thinking, learning, and memory.

It's worth noting that while alcohol can initially make individuals feel drowsy and aid in falling asleep faster, it disrupts the sleep cycle, preventing proper REM sleep. This can lead to frequent waking, nightmares, and vivid dreams, resulting in poor sleep quality [4].

The impact of alcohol on health extends beyond these specific areas. It is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption and to seek professional help if needed. Understanding the effects of alcohol on the body can serve as a reminder to consume alcohol in moderation and to prioritize overall well-being.

Cannabis vs. Alcohol

When comparing the effects of cannabis and alcohol, one important area of consideration is their impact on driving impairment and driving-related skills. Understanding these differences is crucial for promoting road safety and making informed decisions regarding substance use.

Driving Impairment Comparison

Laboratory tests and driving studies have shown that both cannabis and alcohol can impair driving-related skills [5]. However, it is important to note that the effects of cannabis on driving vary more between individuals than with alcohol. This variation can be attributed to factors such as tolerance, differences in smoking technique, and variations in the absorption of THC [5].

Effects on Driving-Related Skills

While both cannabis and alcohol impair driving-related skills, the specific effects on these skills differ. Impairment from cannabis is more pronounced in highly automatic driving functions, such as tracking ability, reaction time, and maintaining a steady position on the road. On the other hand, alcohol primarily affects complex tasks that require conscious control, such as decision-making, information processing, and response inhibition.

Combining marijuana with alcohol can have synergistic effects and eliminate the ability to compensate for impairment effectively. Even at doses that would be insignificant when using either drug alone, combining the two substances can result in impairment.

It is worth noting that the relationship between marijuana use and accidents is still a subject of debate and inconsistent findings. Some studies show no increased risk, while others indicate an increased risk. Epidemiological studies have not conclusively resolved whether marijuana use increases the risk of accidents [5].

Understanding the differences in driving impairment between cannabis and alcohol is essential for individuals to make responsible choices when it comes to substance use and driving. It is always recommended to avoid driving under the influence of any impairing substance, including cannabis and alcohol, to ensure the safety of oneself and others on the road.

Being High vs. Being Drunk

When comparing the states of being high and being drunk, it is important to note that while they share some similarities, they are also distinct experiences. Being high refers to being under the influence of substances that alter the normal functioning of the body and mind, such as alcohol, cannabis, or other mind-altering substances. On the other hand, being drunk specifically refers to alcohol intoxication. Let's explore the physical and mental signs, as well as the substance abuse concerns associated with each state.

Physical and Mental Signs

The physical signs of being high and being drunk can differ, but there are some similarities. When someone is high on cannabis, they may experience dilated pupils, impaired coordination, bloodshot eyes, and dry lips. Conversely, someone who is drunk may exhibit constricted pupils, impaired coordination, bloodshot eyes, and slurred speech. These physical signs can be indicators of intoxication and may vary depending on the individual and the substances consumed.

In terms of mental signs, being high or drunk can have distinct effects on cognition and emotions. When under the influence of cannabis, individuals may experience mental signs such as paranoia and anxiety, distorted perception, unusual laughter, and mood swings. The compounds in cannabis can alter brain chemistry, heighten sensitivity, and affect emotions and mood. Being drunk, on the other hand, can lead to impaired judgment, slower reaction times, emotional disturbances, and a general sense of disinhibition. Alcohol's impact on the central nervous system can result in these mental signs [6].

Substance Abuse Concerns

While occasional use of alcohol or cannabis may not indicate a problem, consistently being high or drunk can be a sign of substance abuse and dependence. Using these substances as coping mechanisms for underlying issues can have serious consequences on one's health and overall well-being. Substance abuse concerns can manifest in various ways, including physical health problems, impaired social functioning, difficulties at work or school, and strained relationships.

It is crucial for individuals who find themselves constantly being high or drunk to seek help and support. Substance abuse treatment programs and counseling services can provide the necessary resources and guidance to overcome addiction and address underlying issues. Recognizing the signs of substance abuse and taking proactive steps towards recovery is essential for long-term well-being and a healthier lifestyle.

Understanding the differences between being high and being drunk can help individuals make informed decisions about substance use and identify when intervention may be necessary. It is important to prioritize health and safety and seek professional help if substance abuse becomes a concern.


[1]: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body

[2]: https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol/effects-on-body

[3]: https://www.royalqueenseeds.com/us/blog-what-are-the-differences-between-being-high-and-being-drunk-n715

[4]: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/ss/slideshow-alcohol-body-effects

[5]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2722956/

[6]: https://www.theedgetreatment.com/being-high-what-makes-it-different-from-being-drunk/