The Effects Of Alcohol On Motor Skills

accidentAlcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances today. Incidentally, it is also one of the most underestimated substances. Campaigns exist by the dozen to raise awareness against drinking and driving, yet thousands of Americans do it anyway.

If you have ever been guilty of having a drink or two and then driving a vehicle, take a moment to review the full effects of alcohol on your motor skills. You might think twice about driving next time you’ve had something to drink.

What Are Motor Skills?

First, let’s cover the basics of motor function. What are motor skills?

Motor skills are those functions we perform by coordinated use of muscles, hands, feet, etc. Motor skills are used to execute specific actions. These functions have been broken up into categories of “precise” and “gross” motor skills. Here are a few simple examples of general motor skills:



-tying one’s shoes

-driving a car

-picking up an object/moving it

We depend, for precise motor skill performance, upon our sensory channels—sight, sound, touch, smell and even taste. If these channels are distorted or altered by drugs or alcohol, our ability to act as intended, is limited.

Alcohol Affects The Sensory Channels

According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol affects every single organ in the human body. After even just one drink, you might notice the effects of alcohol on your mind and ability to perceive your environment. This is the result of the alcohol being absorbed rapidly into your blood stream.

If you’ve ever been drunk yourself (or observed someone who was intoxicated) you are probably very familiar with the fact that alcohol distorts vision, sound, touch and, yes, even taste.

An intoxicated person’s surroundings may appear completely different to him. He may or may not be able to hear what is going on around him, or things being said directly to him.  Most frighteningly, he might hurt himself and not even realize it because his sense of touch has been so thoroughly altered.

With all of these factors in play, alcohol consumption makes normal activity and body function nearly impossible. Hence, the stereotypical drunk will:

-talk too loudly

-bump into things

-respond emotionally and inappropriately (laughing, anger, etc.)

-seem “out of it,” etc.

These behaviors can and do manifest in varying degrees, of course. Not everyone responds to alcohol in the same way. In fact, one person might become fully intoxicated after one drink whereas someone else might not feel any different until two or three.

Drinking Makes You Move More Slowly

If you are physically able to “handle your liquor,” this means your body is metabolizing the alcohol in the same time as you are consuming it. Drunkenness sets in when you consume alcohol faster than your body is able to process it and flush it out.

A little bit of alcohol will act as a stimulant—hence the “cheerful drunk” at the beginning of a night out. A little later on, the excessive alcohol in one’s system begins to act as a heavy sedative—motor skills are slowed down tremendously. Walking, seeing and talking are no longer simple tasks to a drunk person.

Loss of coordination comes part-and-parcel with alcohol consumption. Additionally, the strong sedative effects of drinking present obvious reasons why alcohol and driving, operating potentially dangerous machinery or knives—an altogether bad idea.

The effects of alcohol on motor skills are not just seen while one is drinking. The infamous “hangover” over the next several days manifests by various physical discomforts, mental “blank spots” and dehydration—all of which affect your motor skills and physical activity.


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