Consumption of alcohol changes the body’s balance and affects an individual’s behavior. When a person who drinks develops tolerance due to chronic alcohol consumption, the brain and body become used to certain doses of the drug. Learn more about how tolerance to alcohol develops and the impact it has on the brain and body.



When a person becomes tolerant of alcohol, it means that a person can, after continued consumption, feel a lesser effect than when the person first began drinking. “Tolerance” refers to a decrease in brain sensitivity to alcohol following long-term exposure to alcohol. The following is also true of tolerance:

  • Reduction in intensity of alcohol’s effects
  • Increased amounts of alcohol are necessary to produce the original effect
  • A person with tolerance must drink greater quantities to produce the same effect previously achieved at a lower level of consumption

Alcohol tolerance differs by individual but humans develop a tolerance for many types of drugs when the brain functions adapt to compensate for the presence of drugs in the system. Functional tolerance, as it is also known, may facilitate the consumption of larger amounts of alcohol even while the person does not feel obvious signs of intoxication in spite of high blood alcohol concentrations. This can have deadly consequences for the individual drinking.


Tolerance Symptoms

Alcohol-tolerant individuals require more alcohol to produce the same effect, such as reducing anxiety. Liver enzymes that detoxify alcohol increase with frequent drinking as the liver works to break down alcohol more quickly than when first exposed to alcohol. Some of the following symptoms may be exhibited with tolerance:

  • Dysphoria
  • Disturbed mood
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • General malaise



The amount of time it takes for a person to develop tolerance differs from person to person. Generally speaking, long-term exposure to alcohol can lead to tolerance and eventual dependence and addiction. If a person with alcohol dependence stops drinking, withdrawal symptoms begin including possible tremors, anxiety, sweating, hallucinations, and seizures. The brain is the biggest indicator of how the body reacts to alcohol.

A person who wants to lower their tolerance to alcohol can do so by moderating the quantity and frequency with which drinking occurs. When a person is not able to quit drinking without help, treatment options are available to support the transition into sobriety and recovery. Methods of treatment vary depending on what the individual needs and is able or willing to experience. Inpatient and outpatient programs are available with different options for recovery including 12-step programs and various other programs to support sobriety.


If you or a loved one feel drinking has become out of control, Hired Power can help. Recovery is possible and sobriety a reality with the right support and resources. Call us to find out how to get started on the journey to recovery from alcohol dependence.