ZocdocAnswersWhy am I no longer able to handle any amount of alcohol?

Question

Why am I no longer able to handle any amount of alcohol?

I am only 23 years old, and I have been drinking alcohol, moderately, throughout my college years. Several years ago, I was able to have 4-10 drinks and only feel slightly hungover the next day but I was able to function. At the age of 22, I began to get extremely ill from very small amounts of alcohol for what seemed like no reason. I cut down on drinking because of it in the past year, and at this point I can't even have one alcoholic beverage without being completely hungover the next day. I was informed to drink alcoholic beverages with little to no sugar content, and I have done so, but it has not helped in the slightest. My symptoms are terrible. Whether I half one drink or six, I am extremely nauseous the next day, exhausted, and extremely depressed. Do you know any medical reason why this could be happening? Again, this is a very recent development (in the past 8 months).

Answer

Thanks for your question. This is quite a remarkable change based on what you are describing, and is something that should be discussed with your doctor. While it is true that many people do experience changes in how well they handle alcohol with time and aging, the change that you have described seems to be both dramatic and acute. This would or may suggest that there may be some change in how the alcohol is being metabolized in your body. Usually, your liver is the primary organ that is responsible for breaking down alcohol into different elements necessary for digestion. In those who are having problems with their liver, it can be difficult to tolerate more alcohol than for other people. Most likely in someone who is young, perhaps, is some change that affects the digestion of these alcohol products due to something else, such as a new medication that is metabolized through the same pathway. For some people who are trying to quit drinking alcohol, doctors will prescribe medications that make them able to tolerate alcohol very poorly (one example is a common antibiotic that is used for other things but causes poor alcohol digestion). Please speak with your doctor about your question.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.