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What Is Intoxication?

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Updated June 15, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition:

Intoxication is the acute state of physical and cognitive impairment caused by drinking alcohol or being exposed to a psychoactive drug. Intoxication typically has both physical and mental effects, which can include difficulties with controlling movement, mood changes, impairment of cognitive skills, impaired judgment, impaired impulse control, and changes in interpreting your surroundings or the behavior of others.

These changes and impairments may be reinforcing, and may be perceived as amusing by the intoxicated person and/or their companions, but they increase the person's vulnerability to a wide range of problems, including violence, sexual assault, accidents, and misadventure.

Although the term "intoxication" is most commonly used to refer to the acute (immediate or short-term) effects of alcohol, intoxication may also be used to refer to the effects of other drugs, including amphetamines, caffeine, cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, opioids, phencyclidine, sedatives, hypnotics and anxiolytics.

Pronunciation: in-tox-i-kay-shun
Also Known As: inebriation, drunkenness, pissed, rat-arsed, out of it, under the influence, stoned, hammered, smashed
Examples:
Alcohol intoxication can lead to violence -- Joanne got into a fist fight while intoxicated at a party.

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