Busting The Most Common Myths About Alcohol

By:    Published: April 13, 2012

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You’ve heard these many sayings and expressions about drinking alcohol, but have you ever wondered if any of them are true? Well, here are few of the most common myths about alcohol that are completely false.

“Beer before liquor keeps you sober.”

The familiar saying that drinking beer before hard liquor to lessen the effects of intoxication is false. If a person consumes beer before hard liquor in one situation, and hard liquor before beer in another, the person would be equally intoxicated in both situations (assuming that the quantity consumed in both settings are the same). People may have this misconception is because beer usually takes longer to be absorbed by the body compared to hard liquor. Thus, a person may feel relatively sober if a beer is ingested first versus someone else who drank hard liquor first.

“You don’t get as drunk on wine coolers than hard liquor or beer.”

People have the misconception that certain alcoholic drinks may make someone more drunk than other drinks. However, in standard amounts, coolers, beer and hard liquor can make you equally intoxicated, as they all have the same amount of alcohol. A standard drink is measured as follows:

  • An alcoholic drink with ½ ounce of ethanol alcohol
  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 12 ounces of wine cooler
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1 ounce of 100 proof hard liquor
  • 1.25 ounces of 80 proof hard liquor

With the more “diluted” alcoholic drinks, the tendency is usually to consume more than the standard drink and ending up with a way higher level of blood alcohol than intended. Hence, be sure to drink with caution.

“Alcohol affects everyone the same.”

Contrary to the belief, factors such as gender and genetics play a major role in how a person responds to alcohol. For example, a person’s alcohol flush reaction is dependent on his or her genetic makeup and can differ between ethnicities. Also, women tend to get drunk faster and easier than men because men have more active alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme the body produces to break down alcohol. So, next time you try to egg your friend on to drink as much alcohol as you, remember that not everyone is created the same, and grab your friend a cup of water instead.

“Coffee and aspirin are the best for a hangover.”

Believe it or not, aspirin not only doesn’t help a hangover, it actually makes a hangover even worse. One of the reasons hangovers happen is because the body is unable to process and neutralize alcohol in a timely manner. Aspirin, in this case, further inhibits the enzymes that break down alcohol in the body, leading to a longer hangover. Then, instead of helping a hangover, coffee may actually continue to degrade the already-irritated lining of a “hungover stomach” due to its high acidity, and worsen dehydration. Caffeine is a stimulant, so it can help a person feel more awake, but it does not help the body process alcohol any faster than before. Instead, try some antacids for stomach discomfort, and drink plenty of fluids to help your body flush out the toxins from the night before.

“Alcohol makes you more relaxed and fun.”

While alcohol is a depressant, it does not make the body more relaxed. Instead, it causes inflammation and stress in the body, as the liver identifies the substance as a toxin and immediately sets to work on neutralizing it. People may feel more relaxed or more open when drinking because alcohol impedes motor skills and dulls the senses, which in turn, lowers inhibition. Even if it makes you sleepy, studies have shown that people who drink before bed have a lower quality sleep experience than those who do not drink before bed, and do not feel as energized or rejuvenated the next day. Hence, try some other relaxation methods, such as exercise or meditation, in place of drinking alcohol.

“Food can prevent getting drunk, so eat a lot before drinking.”

While a full stomach can help the body break down alcohol, it certainly does not soak up the alcohol or prevent the body from getting intoxicated. When a stomach is full of food, the sphincter that connects the stomach to the intestines closes up, preventing the fast-absorbing small intestines from immediately picking up the alcohol. Due to the closure, enzymes also get more time to break down the alcohol in the stomach. In fact, it may not be the best idea to try and stuff yourself full of food in the midst of drinking, because poor food choices tend to be made when a person is under the influence. In the long run, it can lead to other health complications and problems with body weight. Hence, be sure to eat a healthy meal prior to drinking, and if the munchies hit during drinking, snack on some fruits or veggies for the sake of your health.

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