Two Common and Dangerous Alcohol Myths

Two Common and Dangerous Alcohol Myths

Everyone's heard the “beer before liquor, never been sicker” rule by now. There are some rules about drinking which are just based on anecdotal evidence, and then there are myths which are more rooted in the actual feelings you get when intoxicated. Keep in mind, your ability to actually make judgment calls while you're drunk can get heavily skewed; you may think that you're sweet talking your way into the heart of someone who's caught your eye, but the next day, you get the field report from a friend and learn otherwise. “Common knowledge” about drinking is often not that different.


Myth #1: Alcohol Warms You Up


While it's true that alcohol can help to dilate the blood vessels in your skin to make it flush with blood, which is the reasoning behind the “red nose” look that we associate with heavy drinkers, the truth is that you actually lose more heat when you're drinking. Your body reduces the amount of blood flowing through your skin for a reason, and it's to maintain your internal body temperature.


More blood on the surface is exposed to more cold, which your body has to struggle to reheat. In other words, alcohol can cool you off. This can be very dangerous in wintery conditions, and there have been several reports of college students who have fallen asleep in the snow and woken up with extreme frost bite. Some don't wake up at all. The long and short of it is, don't drink alcohol to stay warm.


Just as a note for warmer weather; drinking also dehydrates you, so in case you've confused this as an endorsement for alcohol as your own personal air conditioning beverage, don't make that mistake either. Less water in your system inhibits your body's ability to regulate high levels of heat as well, among other important functions.


Myth #2: Caffeine Will Sober You Up


Alcohol dulls your senses. That's part of its appeal. The chemical reactions of your system when alcohol is introduced lead to a dampening, or depression, of different parts of the nervous system. That's one of the reasons that alcohol was often “prescribed” to patients on the battlefield in the Civil War era. It would seem to make sense that caffeine, on the other hand, would counter those effects.


While a cup of coffee can make you more alert, it doesn't “sober you up.” It only blocks the signals that your brain receives saying that you're tired. In fact, combining alcohol and caffeine is usually a very bad idea, as it may give you the impression that you're not as drunk as you actually are. When your body tells you that you're tired, it's usually for your own good. If you want to sober up quickly, drink as much water as you can, but get as much sleep as you can as well. Even an hour or two might make a difference, and at the very least, you won't be conscious enough to pour yourself another drink. 


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