Drinking Alcohol: Myths vs. Facts

Ah, New Year’s Eve, we meet again. In the midst of festive parties and celebrations, you can often find confetti, countdown kisses and, of course, alcohol. Before you pick up your next flute of bubbly, remind yourself to drink responsibility and know how to protect your body.

J. Kim Penberthy, PhD, ABPP, works at the UVA Center for Leading Edge Addiction Research. She weighed in on some alcohol myths vs. facts.

Myth: Taking ibuprofen before heavy drinking can reduce the effects of a hangover.Drinking Alcohol

Fact: Never take aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen while drinking — it can irritate your stomach. Aspirin and alcohol combined can cause liver inflammation, which allows more alcohol into the bloodstream and may result in potential liver damage. Penberthy suggests taking a standard dose of pain relievers the morning after to help relieve temporary pains.

Myth: Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear.

Fact: Although different drinks may differ in alcohol content, your blood alcohol content (BAC) determines how drunk you are, not the type of alcohol you drink. A drink is a drink, and too much of any combination will make you sick.

Myth: Drinking coffee, eating or taking a cold shower will help you sober up.

Fact: Once alcohol is in your bloodstream, nothing can sober you up besides time. “These other options may help you feel more alert and fresh, but will NOT alone sober you up,” says Penberthy.

What if someone overdoses on alcohol?

Never leave someone alone who has overdosed on alcohol. The Blue Ridge Poison Center is available 24/7 to offer free and confidential guidance: 1.800.222.1222.

Myth: The darker the color of the alcohol you’re drinking, the worse your hangover will be.

Fact: Darker alcohols contain more congeners (toxic chemicals created during the fermentation process), which can worsen hangovers. To avoid feeling sluggish the next day, opt for some lighter versions of those dark drinks, or consume less alcohol.

Myth: Vomiting helps you sober up and can prevent hangovers.

Fact: Alcohol absorption begins almost immediately, so vomiting won’t make much of a difference. If you’re already at that point, there’s likely too much alcohol in your body’s system to escape a hangover the next day. Penberthy says, “Vomiting may occur if you have had too much alcohol, but it will not keep you from being drunk or hungover.”

Myth: The best thing to do for someone who is drunk is to put him/her to bed and let them sleep it off.

Fact: Stay with the person; check their breathing and their skin temperature. They are in danger of choking, seizures, coma and death. Alcohol poisoning can occur with even small amounts of alcohol. “Even if you are not sure how much they have had, you should stay with the person to ensure their safety and call for medical help immediately,” encourages Penberthy.

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