Drunk Eyes vs. Sober Eyes: Know the Difference


If you’ve ever been drunk, you might’ve noticed that alcohol affects your eyes.

You may suddenly be seeing two of your friends at a party or may look in the mirror and notice that your eyes are red or bloodshot.

These are all normal signs of intoxication. Alcohol consumption has an impact on every part of your body, and your eyes are no exception.

Having ‘drunk eyes’ is a common sign of telling if someone is drunk. Police officers often test for drug or alcohol abuse by having you do an eye test.

But how exactly does alcohol impact your eye movement, and what’s the difference between drunk and sober eyes? Today, we’ll discuss:

  • How alcohol affects your eye movement and appearance
  • The difference between drunk eyes and sober eyes
  • How you can minimize alcohol’s impact on your eyes

Let’s get started!

Impact Of Alcohol On Eye Movement And Appearance

Alcohol can have lots of effects on your bodily functions.

Ever noticed that you need to pee a lot when you’re drinking? That’s because alcohol is a diuretic, which means it reduces the water levels in your body – leaving you with a need to constantly urinate.

This lack of water also has an impact on your eyes. Dehydration can cause your eyes to become irritated and dry up, which is a common side effect of drinking.

While this won’t be a problem in the short term, long-term alcohol abuse can potentially lead to dry eye syndrome and other eye problems.

Alcohol impairment can also lead to your eyes becoming red or bloodshot. This is because alcohol has a relaxing quality. It causes your blood vessels to swell which then increases your blood flow, which gives you red or bloodshot eyes.

It’s also important to note that alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down your body’s functions. This causes your reaction times to slow and reduces your coordination.

This can lead to your eyes not functioning like they normally would. You might notice you have blurry vision, reduced pupil size, eyelid twitching, double vision, or even involuntary eye movements.

Thankfully, these side effects are generally short-term. They usually improve as you sober up and clear by the following day. However, if they don’t improve, it’s always best to contact your eye doctor to get them checked out.

Drunk Eyes Vs Sober Eyes

Let’s get into a direct comparison of your eyes while drunk compared to when you’re sober, and why they’re a clear sign of intoxication.

There are quite a few differences you may notice while under the influence of alcohol:

Drunk Eyes


If you’ve ever taken a close-up photo of your eyes while drunk, you might notice that they look super red. This is due to alcohol causing your blood vessels to increase in size, which leads to your blood flow increasing and bloodshot eyes.

Thankfully, this symptom typically goes away after a good night’s rest.


Drunk eyes can also become glassy, which means they lack focus and become blurry. This is due to alcohol’s dehydrating effect, which causes them to become dry and take on a glassy appearance.

One way you can fix this is by drinking more water to rehydrate your body.

Dilated or constricted pupils

Alcohol slows down your body’s functions, causing certain side effects, such as a change in pupil size. Under the effect of alcohol, your pupils dilate slowly, which can cause tunnel vision and other forms of visual impairment.

Slow or erratic eye movements (gaze nystagmus)

Another common symptom of drunk eyes is involuntary eye movements or gaze nystagmus. This is defined as uncontrollable eye movements, where the eyes bounce around instead of staying still.

Gaze nystagmus can be caused by alcohol due to its disrupting effect on brain messages. Alcohol can either slow or block messages sent from your brain to your eyes, which causes them to either slow down or have involuntary movements.

You might notice that your eyes take longer to focus, or even jerk around to random spots. However, this effect clears when you sober up.

Difficulty focusing

One of the most common side effects of drinking is reduced coordination and brain processes. This can make it hard for you to focus on anything, with the effect of giving you double or blurred vision.

You might be walking down the street, or sitting in the back of a taxi, and notice that you can’t focus your eyes on anything. Thankfully, it usually goes away when you stop drinking.

Droopy eyelids

As we’ve discussed earlier, alcohol has a relaxing effect on your body, which makes you feel tired. This can relax your muscles and even make your eyelids feel heavy or droopy. You might notice that a drunk person’s eyes blink slowly due to this effect.

Light sensitivity

Drunk eyes also have decreased sensitivity to contrasting colors, such as light and dark shades. This is what makes driving under the influence dangerous, and why it’s important to assess your level of intoxication.

Involuntary eye twitching

Another possible trait of drunk eyes is twitchy eyelids. This usually occurs when you’re stressed or tired, but alcohol can also be a possible trigger due to the way it affects your coordination.

Sober Eyes


In contrast to drunk eyes, sober eyes are usually clear and bright. There won’t be anything impacting their functions – unless, of course, you have pre-existing eye conditions.

Sober people will have clear eyes and vision, free from redness or dryness.


Being sober also makes it easier to focus your eyes. Without the impact of alcohol, the eyes can focus easily on objects or people. A drunk person’s eyes, on the other hand, will seem unfocused and distant.

Normal-sized pupils

Sober eyes also have normal-sized pupils. As discussed earlier, alcohol can change your pupil size, causing them to dilate or reduce. But a sober person’s pupils will be normal-sized and work just fine.

Smooth and controlled eye movements

You’ll also notice that sober eye movements tend to be more coordinated. Alcohol tends to disrupt messages sent from your brain to your eyes, which can cause them to become erratic. In contrast, a sober person’s eyes will be smooth and coherent.

White sclera (the white part of the eye)

Sober eyes will also look pretty normal. This means the sclera, or the white part of the eye, will be clear and white.

Alcohol and other drugs can cause it to be red or bloodshot. Of course, a sober person’s eyes may still become bloodshot due to irritation or lack of sleep.

Alert appearance

Finally, sober eyes will have an alert appearance. You may notice that drunk people’s eyes tend to be wobbly and unfocused. A sober person’s eyes will be alert and looking at you straight on.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, alcohol can have a significant impact on your eyes, causing a variety of short and long-term side effects. While most visual impairments will go away, it is important to note that increased alcohol abuse can make them worse and lead to other harmful conditions.

Make sure you take steps to minimize the effects of alcohol on your body, such as staying hydrated and seeking medical attention if necessary. Your eyes are an important part of your body, so remember to take care of them!



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