Substance Use

Why Can’t I Drink Alcohol Anymore Without Feeling Sick?

young woman sick in bed with hangover from drinking alcohol

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Alcohol Tolerance and Physical Side Effects

If you can’t drink alcoholic beverages anymore without feeling sick, it could be because your body has developed a tolerance to the effects of drinking. As people get older, their bodies become less able to process large amounts of alcohol and it takes longer to recover from its effects.

Additionally, certain medications can increase sensitivity to the side effects of drinking, making it more difficult for us to enjoy a night out with friends or family.

At Zinnia Health, we help individuals reclaim their lives from alcohol use disorder (AUD). Our comprehensive treatment options include detox, inpatient, and outpatient care, providing each person with a personalized plan that works best for them. To get started, call our helpline at (855) 430-9439.

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Why Can’t I Drink Like I Used to?

According to the National Institute on Aging, the effects of alcohol consumption change as people get older. Bodies can begin to process alcohol at a slower rate due to decreased enzymes that break down alcohol.

This means that even if you used to keep your drinks under control when you were younger, you might become more easily intoxicated as you age.

Without question, this can increase your chances of experiencing mishaps like falls, fractures, and vehicular collisions.

1. The Different Impact on Men and Women

Typically, the impacts of alcohol are more acutely felt by older women compared to older men.

2. Using Alcohol as a Crutch

For certain individuals, alcohol becomes a dangerous crutch after facing life-altering events like the death of someone close to them, relocating homes, or deteriorating health.

Such changes can lead to feelings of loneliness, boredom, anxiety, and depression. With each challenge they face comes an increased reliance on alcohol that can damage their physical and mental health.

3. Combining Alcohol With Medication

Combining even small amounts of alcohol with some medicines can be incredibly hazardous and even life-threatening. It’s important to note that this danger applies to over-the-counter medications and those prescribed by a doctor.

Why Does Alcohol Make Me Feel Sick?

Alcohol affects everyone differently. However, it’s common for drinking to cause symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and lightheadedness. Even if you used to enjoy drinking without any adverse effects before, your body’s ability to metabolize alcohol might have changed.


According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), For many individuals, a night of partying often results in a hangover the next day. Typical symptoms of a hangover include:

  • Tiredness and exhaustion
  • Lack of strength
  • Excessive thirst
  • Pain in the head
  • Aches in the muscles
  • Nausea and upset stomach
  • Dizziness and unsteadiness
  • Heightened sensitivity to light and noise
  • Worried feelings and anxiety
  • Short temper and irritability
  • Excessive sweating
  • Elevated blood pressure

There are several contributing factors to the development of hangover symptoms, including:

  • Dehydration: Alcohol inhibits the release of vasopressin, a hormone that controls the kidneys and encourages fluid retention. This leads to increased urination and fluid loss, contributing to symptoms like thirst, fatigue, and headache.
  • Disrupted sleep: Alcohol may cause quicker sleep, but it is fragmented and results in waking up earlier, leading to fatigue and reduced productivity.
  • Gastrointestinal irritation: Alcohol directly irritates the stomach lining and increases acid production, causing nausea and discomfort.
  • Inflammation: Alcohol increases inflammation throughout the body, contributing to the general malaise felt during a hangover.
  • Acetaldehyde exposure: Alcohol metabolism in the liver creates acetaldehyde, a toxic by-product that causes inflammation in various organs such as the liver, pancreas, brain, gastrointestinal tract, and others.
  • Mini-withdrawal: Alcohol can bring a sense of calm, relaxation, and even euphoria, but the brain quickly adjusts to balance these effects. When the effects wear off, individuals may feel more restless and anxious.

Battling alcohol abuse isn’t easy, but the path to sobriety is attainable with the help of Zinnia Health. We provide personalized addiction treatment options that can help you reclaim your life. Call 24/7 at (855) 430-9439 for immediate assistance.

Can You Suddenly Become Intolerant to Alcohol?

It is not uncommon to develop an alcohol allergy or intolerance at any point in one’s life, and the onset of allergy-like symptoms after consuming alcohol may be alarming. Symptoms like hives, itching, facial swelling, and difficulty breathing can indicate a mild allergic reaction.

More severe reactions such as low blood pressure, chest pain, anaphylaxis, and throat closing up warrant immediate medical attention.

Possible Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

According to MedlinePlus, having itchy skin after drinking may signal a possible Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This rare condition is caused by a certain type of cancer of the immune system.

Anyone that has experienced sudden-onset alcohol intolerance or related allergic symptoms should seek medical advice from a professional.

What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Intolerance?

If you’re sensitive to alcohol or the ingredients it contains, telltale signs may include:

  • Flushing of the face
  • Red, itchy skin bumps (hives)
  • Aggravation of existing asthma
  • A stuffy nose or runny nose
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Uneasiness leading to nausea and vomiting
  • Loose stools (diarrhea)

According to NIAAA, individuals who exhibit the alcohol flush reaction but continue to consume alcohol are at a heightened risk of developing cancer, including esophageal and breast cancer.

The increased risk is due to the carcinogenic properties of acetaldehyde, which is produced during alcohol metabolism.

What Are the Possible Causes of Alcohol Intolerance?

Alcohol intolerance or alcohol sensitivity is a consequence of not having the right enzymes in your body to metabolize alcohol’s toxins. This inherited trait tends to be more common among people of East Asian descent.

1. Allergies to Specific Ingredients

Ingredients frequently found in beer or a glass of wine may lead to an intolerant reaction as well. For example, sulfites are used to preserve wine and beer, so those with sulfite allergies may develop reactions to this type of alcohol.

2. Sensitivity to Acetaldehyde

Acetaldehyde is a by-product of the body’s metabolism of alcohol, and some people are especially sensitive to it. If you drink heavily for an extended period of time, your body may overproduce this compound, leading to uncomfortable symptoms.

What Is the Difference Between Alcohol Intolerance and Alcoholism?

Alcohol intolerance is caused by a deficiency of enzymes that help the body break down alcohol. Alcoholism, on the other hand, occurs when an individual has a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol that leads to impaired judgment and behavior.

Alcoholism and AUD

Alcoholism can also cause physical and psychological damage, including cirrhosis of the liver and an increased risk of depression. It can be caused by a genetic condition and environmental factors.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, 5.9% (about 15.7 million) of individuals aged 12 and over in the United States struggle with AUD.

How Can Alcoholism Be Treated?

Treating alcoholism is a complex process, and it involves both psychological and medical interventions. It is important to seek professional help as soon as possible for the best chance of success.

Treatment may involve:

  • Counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatments, such as drugs that reduce cravings or block the effects of alcohol
  • Lifestyle changes like seeking out healthier activities and avoiding triggers

To prevent relapses, it is important to have a strong support system of family members, friends, and even sponsors.

Additionally, individuals may need to be monitored by medical professionals on a regular basis to ensure they remain healthy and unaffected for longer periods of time.

Get the Right Support When Drinking Alcohol Makes You Sick

At Zinnia Health, our experienced team understands the difficulties of alcohol addiction and can guide you through every step in your recovery journey. Get the right support by calling our addiction help hotline 24/7 at (855) 430-9439.

Call us
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(855) 430-9439
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