When too much alcohol is in your system, you may notice that it can affect coordination. This can make it hard to balance when you walk and often causes you to trip or stumble. A new study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs has discovered that your smartphone can detect how much you have had to drink, based on the way you walk.

Why You Walk Funny When Drunk

Alcoholic cerebellar degeneration is when neurons in the cerebellum deteriorate and die because of the damaging effects of alcohol. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls your coordination and balance. You could be developing symptoms like an unsteady walk, jerky movements of the arms and legs, slurred speech, or rapid eye movement. Being able to detect how much you drank in something as accessible as a smartphone can help people reduce alcohol consumption, prevent drunk driving, alert a sponsor for someone in treatment, and stop injury or death from occurring.

What Happened in the Study

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recruited 22 adults from ages 21-43. These volunteers would receive a mixed drink with enough vodka to produce a breath alcohol concentration of .20%. They had one hour to finish the alcohol. Every hour for seven hours, participants had their alcohol concentration analyzed and performed a walking task. The researchers placed a smartphone on each participant’s back, secured with an elastic belt. Participants would walk in a straight line for ten steps, turn around, and walk back ten steps. The smartphones measured how someone would walk side to side, vertical, forwards, and backward. The researchers were able to determine if a participants’ alcohol concentration exceeded .08%, based on how they walked. 

What This Study Means, Going Forward

Even though people do not place their cellphones on their lower backs, the research group plans to conduct additional research while people carry their phones in their hands and pockets for more realistic results. Head researcher Brian Suffoletto imagines a world in which people get an alert if a friend of theirs has reached a risky level of alcohol consumption, and are then sent strategies to help their friend stop drinking. These researchers plan on expanding on this study by identifying the best communication and behavioral strategies to influence and support individuals that have become highly intoxicated.

Alcohol cannot only affect the way that you walk but can make drastic changes in the quality of your life. If you have no control over your coordination, it can cause you to slip, fall, and give you a concussion. To avoid ending up in the hospital, you can go into treatment for alcoholism to take back control of your life. At Alta Loma, you can learn about a number of strategies to help you maintain sobriety. Located in Georgetown, Texas, Alta Loma’s transformative treatment center connects you with specialists that can make personalized plans for you. Alcoholism recovery may be challenging, but it is not impossible to get through with some help. We can help you with 12-Step programs, individualized therapy and counseling, life and coping skills education, medication management, and more. To learn more about the services we offer, please call us today at (866) 457-3843.