Drive Sober this Holiday Season
We all want to celebrate during the holidays, and more people are likely to drink beyond their limits during this season than at other times of the year. Some will suffer adverse consequences that range from fights to falls to traffic crashes. Sadly, we often put ourselves and others at risk because we don’t understand how alcohol affects us during an evening of celebratory drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provide important information that challenges these widespread, yet incorrect, beliefs about how quickly alcohol affects the body and how long the effects of drinking last.
Sobering Up––Myths and Facts
Myth: You can drive as long as you are not slurring your words or acting erratically.
Fact: The coordination needed for driving is compromised long before the signs of intoxication are visible. Plus, the sedative effects of alcohol increase the risk of nodding off or losing attention behind the wheel.
Myth: Drink coffee. Caffeine will sober you up.
Fact: Caffeine may help with drowsiness, but not with the effects of alcohol on decision-making or coordination. The body needs time to metabolize (break down) alcohol and then to return to normal. There are no quick cures— only time will help.
During an evening of drinking, it’s also easy to misjudge how long alcohol’s effects last. The truth is that alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink has been finished. Even after someone stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream, impairing judgment and coordination for hours.
Initially, alcohol acts as a stimulant, and people who drink may feel upbeat and excited. But don’t be fooled. Alcohol soon decreases inhibitions and judgment, and can lead to reckless decisions. As we consume more alcohol, reaction time suffers and behavior becomes poorly controlled and sometimes even aggressive. Continued drinking causes the slurred speech and loss of balance that we typically associate with being drunk. At higher levels, alcohol acts as a depressant, which causes the drinker to become sleepy and in some cases pass out. At these levels, alcohol can also cause blackouts. The intoxicated person actively engages in behaviors like walking and talking, but does not create memories for these or other events that occur during the blackout. At very high levels, drinkers face the danger of life-threatening alcohol poisoning due to the suppression of vital life functions.
For more information on celebrating your holidays safely and tips for cutting back, visit: http://www.RethinkingDrinking.niaaa.nih.gov