Why Does One Beer Get Me Drunk? (And Should You Worry?)

Have you ever planned for a full night out with friends, but one beer in and you’re already tipsy? If you’re worried something might be wrong with you – don’t fret. There are plenty of reasons why you might get drunk off of one beer, and only a few are health-related.

You can get drunk off of one beer for many reasons. Your diet that day – how much food and water you consumed in the last 24 hours – has a significant impact on how quickly you get drunk. Other factors such as general health and the ABV of the beer may also be at play. In rarer cases, it may be an indicator of a liver problem or alcohol allergy.

If you’re worried about the possible implications of getting drunk off of one beer, keep reading to see if you show the symptoms of these health-related issues. 

Is it possible to get drunk from one beer?

Many factors play into why a person gets drunk. It can even vary from day to day depending on your diet, amount of sleep, and general wellness. 

Factors that can contribute to you getting drunk quickly include: 

  • Body Weight
  • Hydration
  • Diet
  • Sleep Schedule
  • Medications
  • High ABV
  • Genetic Factors

Aspects such as body weight and genetics have a strong impact on how quickly one can get drunk. If you have a heavier body weight or a larger body type, you are not as likely to get drunk as fast as someone with a smaller body type. Certain genetic factors can also impact your absorption of alcohol, such as your particular race or ethnicity. 

If you are sick or haven’t eaten much the day you decide to have a beer, you are much more likely to feel the effect of alcohol more quickly. The same holds true if you are on any prescription medication. Make sure to talk to your doctor before consuming any alcohol while on any medication.

The beer you are choosing to have will also impact how quickly you get drunk. Certain beers have much higher ABVs than others. Knowing the difference between them is important. 

  • Double IPAs are a common high ABV beer
  • Stouts can range from high to low ABV
  • Aged beers tend to have higher ABVs

What if you suddenly get drunk very easily

If you just noticed that you recently have been getting drunk very easily, it may be an indication of an issue with your liver

Excessive consumption of alcohol can cause damage to your liver. Three main liver diseases can occur: fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcohol-related cirrhosis. Most of these health issues can be treated and resolved through abstaining from further alcohol consumption. 

Fatty liver is the most common and occurs in individuals who consistently consume a high volume of alcohol. As the name suggests, you develop fat around your liver which causes significant health complications. There are not many symptoms that can help identify this disease other than discomfort in your right side. 

Alcoholic hepatitis and Alcohol-related cirrhosis have much more severe symptoms. If you start to notice high blood pressure, fever, nausea, or behavior changes, please speak with your doctor. 

While these liver concerns seem very scary, do not worry. Most issues can be resolved by not drinking more alcohol for a while, and the worst diseases only come after 10+ years of heavy drinking.  

Not So Fun Fact: Women are much more likely to suffer liver damage than men.

What are the symptoms of alcohol allergy?

If you’ve always reacted poorly to alcohol or often get drunk quickly, it is possible you may have an alcohol allergy or alcohol intolerance

If you drink alcohol and experience abominable pain, swelling, nausea, or any itching, you may be allergic to the ingredients in alcohol. If this is the case, cease drinking immediately and get an allergy test done. 

It is more likely that you may have an alcohol intolerance or aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) deficiency. ALDH2 is an enzyme that digests alcohol. If you experience headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and vomiting frequently when you drink, you may have an intolerance. 

There are other intolerances you may have that impact your drinking with similar symptoms. Contact your doctor if you are worried about your health at all. 

What is alcohol flushing syndrome?

Alcohol flushing syndrome or just flushing is the manifestation of alcohol intolerance. As I just mentioned, the ALDH2 deficiency can cause a heightened reaction to alcohol. 

Unfortunately, flushing syndrome is genetic. Most commonly present in individuals of East Asian descent, the syndrome is referred to in popular culture as the ‘Asian Glow.’ This refers to the redding of the face and body after consuming alcohol. 

If you have an alcohol flushing syndrome, it is possible you feel all the symptoms of being drunk after only consuming one beer. Luckily, some medications can alleviate the effects of this syndrome:

  • Histamine-2 (H2) blockers work by slowing the breakdown of alcohol to acetaldehyde in your bloodstream.
  • Brimonidine is a topical therapy that lessens facial redness itself, similar to eye drops in reducing the size of blood vessels. 

How alcohol affects the body

You now may be wondering how exactly alcohol causes all these effects on your body. While the symptoms of drinking alcohol may vary a bit depending on the person, how our bodies process alcohol is the same. 

Once you drink alcohol, it enters your organs and is absorbed into your blood via the stomach and small intestine. It typically takes 30 minutes to an hour for it to be fully absorbed. From there, it enters your liver, kidney, and lungs where it is processed then expelled. 90% of the alcohol breakdown is done by the liver, which can handle an average of one standard drink every hour.

Consuming excess alcohol can have significant negative effects on your body. Here are some of the ways in which drinking even a single beer can impact you:

  • Communication pathways in your brain are disrupted, impacting your speech and motor functions.
  • High blood pressure and strokes become more common the more frequently you drink large volumes of alcohol.
  • Liver problems, as shown above, are common and can have lasting consequences if not treated.