We normally associate alcoholism with increased tolerance to alcohol. Alcoholics often are able to drink a great deal before the usual symptoms of intoxication kick in — slurred speech, falling asleep, getting loud, poor balance, and poor judgment which could lead to and accident or a DUI charge.

However, there are exceptions. Some functioning alcoholics do indeed show signs of intoxication with as little as a single drink. There are at least two different reasons why this might happen.

The first and most common is that alcohol does not easily leave the system of some alcoholics. The first drink of the day is added to the remains of what they drank the day before.

A healthy liver will process the alcohol and related toxins within about 12 hours. That is why the rule for pilots is, “Twelve hours from bottle to throttle.” But if a person’s liver is becoming impaired by the abuse of alcohol, it may take much longer to process and eliminate the alcohol. So if an alcoholic requires less and less alcohol to get a buzz, he might be well advised to have his liver checked. Or better yet, stop drinking altogether.

There is a school of thought about allergies suggesting that we crave what we are allergic to. If an alcoholic has become allergic to alcohol and abstains from alcohol for a period of time, it may take very little alcohol to affect his system dramatically. Sometimes the body’s reaction to the reintroduction of alcohol is violent. I have first-hand experience with that.

Of course, a particular individual could have both an under-functioning liver and a growing allergic reaction to alcohol.

The prolonged abuse of alcohol takes its toll on the body. Besides destroying brain cells, it affects liver function and can have major effects on metabolism. Because alcohol is a diuretic, and alcoholics typically don’t drink much water, they tend to be in a chronic state of dehydration. Dehydration can of course be responsible for a host of other problems, including brain fog.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Neill Neill, psychologist, author and columnist, maintains an active practice with a focus on healthy relationships and life after addictions. He is the author of Living with a Functioning Alcoholic - A Woman’s Survival Guide. From time to time life presents us all with issues. To find out what insights and guidance Neill shares about your particular questions, go to http://www.neillneill.com.