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Can Different Types of Alcohol Affect My Body Differently?

Can Different Types of Alcohol Affect My Body Differently?

Any experienced drinker knows that no two nights of drinking lead to an identical morning after. Some mornings it may feel like you simply didn’t log enough sleep, while others like a truck ran over your head… twice. But do you know why? Modern science claims that “alcohol is alcohol,” yet many who drink swear different alcoholic beverages cause significantly different reactions in their mental and physical state. The truth, as always, is not black and white.  While the way alcohol is metabolized in the body is consistent no matter what you are drinking, different people drinking the same thing may react differently and the same people drinking different things may also react differently. So what gives?  The way you feel after drinking depends on a variety of factors, including who you are, what you drink and how you drink it.

First, it is important to note that the body does technically metabolize all alcohol the same way. To put it simply, once a drink enters the stomach it will be carried by blood vessels to the blood stream. There, about 20% of the alcohol is absorbed while the remaining 80% is absorbed through the small intestine. Once there, the alcohol will enter the blood stream through the small intestine walls and then be metabolized by the liver. On average, the liver can process one ounce of liquor per hour. When you consume alcohol at a faster rate, your system becomes saturated and the additional alcohol will accumulate in your blood stream until it can become metabolized. This is where feeling drunk begins.

Your body metabolizes all alcohol this way, from a pint of beer to a glass of wine to a shot of vodka. So what leads to different outcomes? First of all, women metabolize alcohol at a different rate than men. This has been attributed to women having less body water, so the percentage of alcohol entering their blood stream is a higher, leading them to become drunk more quickly. Additionally, things like body weight, medications and how much food you’ve eaten that day can all affect how quickly you become intoxicated by affecting the alcohol absorption in the stomach.  This is why smaller women tend may be considered “lightweights” and why you should always eat dinner before drinking.

It may not be a surprise to you that a cheerleader becomes drunk more quickly than a husky football player, but the content of a drink and your mindset during drinking can affect your degree of intoxication as well. If you’re drinking a mixed drink, it likely includes soda or fruit juice. Soda, or any other carbonated beverage, speeds up the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream and will leave you feeling drunker faster. Not only that, the caffeine present in soda will keep you alert, meaning you may not realize how significantly the alcohol is affecting you until you are already too drunk. Likewise, using a fruit juice as a mixer masks the taste of alcohol due to the acidity and sugar. Not being able to taste the alcohol in a drink will lead to drinking faster which leads to – you guessed it – becoming drunk more quickly than if you were drinking, say, a vodka on the rocks where you can taste how strong it is.

Perhaps you have heard someone claim “tequila makes me crazy” or “whiskey makes me mean.” When considering that all alcohol is metabolized the same way, it might lead you to believe that these differences aren’t possible. If you took two people of identical gender, height and weight and gave one an ounce of whiskey and one an ounce of tequila and asked them to drink at the same rate, they would likely have identical reactions. However, in reality this is not how people drink.

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Binge Drinking and Your College Freshman

Binge Drinking and Your College Freshman

Binge drinking is a normal part of college life for many students, and even if your child did not drink much, or at all in high school, there's still a good chance that he or she will get involved in binge drinking. Generally, binge drinking is defined as consuming consuming a large number of drinks in two hours or less, typically five drinks or more for men and four or more for women.

Research varies on the exact number of freshmen involved in binge drinking,[http://www.bestdrugrehabilitation.com/blog/infographics/infographic-binge-drinking/] and it often varies from one campus to another, but one commonly cited statistic is that half of college students report binge drinking in the past two weeks. College freshmen who did not drink heavily, or at all, during high school are not exempt from the phenomenon either, as half of these students reported binge drinking at least once during their first semester of college.

Understand the Risks of Binge Drinking

Some parents think of binge drinking as just a normal part of college life, but the truth is that it is risky behavior that may lead to a wide range of undesirable consequences:

  • Academic difficulties as students spend less time and attention on classwork and more on social activities and drinking.
  • Health problems, including trips to the hospital because of excessive blood alcohol content, injuries because of falls while under the influence of alcohol, and injuries due to drunk driving accidents.
  • Assault and unwanted sexual advances as students' own inhibitions are down and they are around others who are in a similar state.

Environmental Factors that Affect Binge Drinking

Although educating students about the risks of binge drinking may play a small role in helping prevent it, some of the biggest contributors to binge drinking are environmental factors. For example, college freshmen who have easy access to inexpensive alcohol, perhaps through older students, and who live in dorms that permit alcohol, are more likely to binge drink than those who don't. The drinking behaviors of friends, and even parents, also had an effect on whether students engaged in binge drinking.

Importance of Talking About Drinking Before College

As a parent, you probably want to do everything you can to protect your college freshman from the harmful effects of binge drinking. You're best off getting started before your child enters college. The more you talk about drinking and your expectations while your child is still at home, the more likely your child will be to maintain these after going away to college.

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Ways To Treat And Prevent Alcohol Poisoning

Ways To Treat And Prevent Alcohol Poisoning

When a person suffers from alcohol poisoning, they've drunk too much alcohol for his or her system in too short a period of time. The dose of alcohol that leads to alcohol poisoning is different for different people. What happens is that the amount of alcohol the person has ingested is so great that it suppresses the reticular activating system of the brain. The RAS controls wakefulness and bodily coordination, which includes breathing. As those functions become more impaired, the patient starts experiencing symptoms like staggering, lack of balance, slurred speech, hypothermia, breathing that becomes irregular, pallor and blurry vision. The symptoms progress to incontinence, drowsiness, vomiting and stupor. Finally, when the RAS’ control of breathing is deeply impaired, the patient can fall into a coma and then into death.

According to expert Michael Myles, “it’s crucial that a person who appears to be suffering from alcohol poisoning be taken to an emergency room or to a physician.” The patient doesn't have to exhibit all of the listed symptoms to have alcohol poisoning.

Treatment

A person suffering from alcohol poisoning needs to be watched carefully and his or her breathing needs to be supported, sometimes through oxygen therapy. The patient should be positioned in a way that will lower the risk of choking if he or she vomits. If the patient is still awake, he or she shouldn't be allowed to fall asleep or lose consciousness. Some people are also given intravenous fluids to keep them hydrated and given doses of thiamin and glucose. Thiamin is a B vitamin and glucose is a simple sugar. These supplements can help ward off the effects of alcohol poisoning. A great little infographic by TopRehabs.com shows how people can find relief by sitting in a sauna and allowing the heat to draw the toxins out of their bodies.

Prevention

A person can cut down on their risk of alcohol poisoning by eating before and as they drink alcohol. This slows the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol. Milk and foods high in fat are excellent at slowing down the rate of absorption because they stimulate the body into closing the valves between the stomach and the small intestine. The person should also drink moderately and slowly. Some doctors recommend that a woman shouldn't drink more than one alcoholic drink per day, and a man shouldn’t have more that two drinks per day.

Also, alcoholic beverages aren’t the only things that cause alcohol poisoning. Rubbing alcohol, mouthwash, and other products that contain alcohol should be put out of the reach of children. Even alcoholic beverages in the home should be locked away.

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Why You Should Know How to Recognize Alcohol Poisoning

Why You Should Know How to Recognize Alcohol Poisoning

According to the Center for Disease Control, around 80,000 people die every year from alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning occurs when an individual consumes multiple drinks within a short period of time. The body cannot metabolize the alcohol quickly. Blood levels rise, causing potentially lethal effects. Body mass and gender contribute to intoxication levels, which vary from one individual to the next. The amount of alcohol safely consumed by one person may prove toxic to another. 

Though the body absorbs alcohol rapidly, digesting and metabolizing alcohol requires an extended period of time. The liver requires at least one hour of time for metabolizing or processing the alcohol in an average drink. One average drink equals:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled alcohol rated as 80 proof 

The CDC advises that alcohol poisoning may occur after consuming four or five drinks rapidly. When the rate of alcohol consumption exceeds the liver’s processing ability, alcohol levels rise in the blood and affect the central nervous system, producing intoxication symptoms. Alcohol rich blood travels to the brain and inhibits nerves that control various vital functions that include breathing, gag reflex and heart rate along with level of consciousness. The initial symptoms of poisoning resemble intoxication. As the body absorbs more alcohol, symptoms progress, creating a life threatening condition. 

Confusion, slurred speech and lack of physical coordination progress to unconsciousness. Individuals in this state cannot regain consciousness and do not respond to external stimuli. As alcohol irritates the stomach, vomiting often occurs but being comatose, vomit blocks the air passage causing suffocation. Breathing slows to fewer than 10 respirations per minute. Body temperature declines along with heart rate. The combination of these deficits produce bluing around the lips and skin. Individuals may exhibit seizure activity. The steady decline of basic functions progresses to cardiac arrest. 

Forcing the individual into a cold shower or attempting to make them “walk off” intoxication does not reverse the symptoms or effects of alcohol poisoning. Allowing someone to “sleep off” the alcohol may end in that person’s death. Know the warning signs of alcohol poisoning and do not wait for the appearance of all of the symptoms before calling 911. 

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