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Ten Truths About Alcohol & The Human Body

group of women holding up wine glasses with red wine in them.

Alcohol and humans have a long history together. After all, there’s an entire Prohibition Era dedicated to man’s attempts to keep other people from imbibing on this mind-altering substance.

Long before the days of motor vehicles—before DUIs were a possibility for drivers who drink too much—people had other alcohol-related problems to deal with. Fights, fury, and poor health have always been possibilities for people who over-imbibe. Sure, you know alcohol affects the body and inhibits a person’s ability to react quickly, but what else does it do that you may not know about?

1. A Glass a Day May Actually Keep the Doctor Away

Alcohol, when consumed in moderation, has actually been shown to have a number of health benefits. According to a Time report, moderate drinking may actually be linked to longevity. According to the report, which summarized findings by the University of California Irvine’s Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders studies, “Drinking about two glasses of wine or beer a day was linked to an 18% drop in a person’s risk of early death—an even stronger effect than the life-preserving practice of exercise.”

The thing is, ‘moderation’ isn’t a one-size-fits-all word. Different people can handle different amounts of alcohol. In fact, the same person will respond differently to alcohol intake, depending on:

  • How much he or she has eaten
  • Any medications he or she may be taking
  • The amount of sleep he or she has gotten in the past few days

This doesn’t negate other health risks, such as diabetes or heart problems—particularly for those who consume high amounts of alcohol.  It’s always best to designate a driver before you imbibe to be sure you’ll get home safely.

2. Ethanol is Intoxicating

Most of the alcohol a person consumes is (eventually) metabolized by the body, but about 20 percent is not. This leftover alcohol enters the bloodstream by way of the tiny ethanol molecules it contains. They pass directly through the stomach lining into the bloodstream, causing consumers to become intoxicated.

3. Alcohol and Drugs Can Cause Lethal Combinations

You may notice alcohol warnings on prescription and over-the-counter medicines. These notes aren’t simply suggestions; they’re alerts that let you know alcohol may react in a negative (or unknown) way. The negative outcome can present itself in many forms, including excessive drowsiness and harmful effects on the liver.

Before you combine any drugs and alcohol, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to ensure you’re not inflicting harm on your body.

4. Keg Stands and Chug Contests Can Have Lasting Impacts

Frat-style drinking contests can be a lot more dangerous than many people realize. When people consume huge amounts of alcohol at one time, their bloodstreams are overloaded with the intoxicating substance. The body doesn’t have enough time to metabolize the alcohol, which sends it immediately into the bloodstream, ultimately ending up in the brain.

Think about what your car would do if you filled your gas tank with water. You’ll have similar results when you flood your body with alcohol faster than your liver can process it. You’ll have trouble making logical, reasonable decisions, which can lead to dangerous outcomes. Alcohol also impacts the way your heart beats, and if you have too much at one time, your heart may even stop beating all together.

This is another place where it’s important to remember everything is good in moderation.

5. Alcohol Can Permanently Disrupt Brain Function

The fun times can’t last forever, and if you’ve had a long night of drinking, you’re probably ready for it to end soon anyway. Frankly, the spins are something few people actually enjoy, and the after-effects usually involve vomiting, sweating, or other unpleasantries.

The immediate effects of alcohol on the brain can actually be long lasting, though. In some situations, heavy use of alcohol may even lead to brain damage, Alzheimer’s disease, and other problems later in life.

6. Chronic Drinking Can Wreak Havoc on Your Hormones

Your body is comprised of a delicate system of tissues, glands, and chemicals. They all work together like they’re supposed to when they’re not interfered with, but alcohol can alter the way your hormones talk to the rest of your body. According to Verywell Mind, alcohol can affect a woman’s reproductive system, cause men to grow breasts, and inhibit the body’s ability to store and maintain calcium levels, which can cause bone-damaging deficiencies.

7. Vomiting Doesn’t Sober You Up. In Fact, It’s Probably a Bad Sign

Vomiting is your body’s way of getting rid of toxins that aren’t welcome. With that said, it gets rid of the bad stuff that’s in your stomach, not in your bloodstream. If you’re extremely intoxicated, the alcohol is flowing through your bloodstream and won’t be ejected by a visit to the toilet or trash can.

Vomiting is actually an early sign of alcohol poisoning—a situation that occurs when your liver has had enough and releases toxic chemicals into the body as it tries to metabolize the excess alcohol.

If you’re around a person who’s vomiting from alcohol consumption, never leave that person alone. It’s imperative to stay with that person so they don’t choke on their vomit, hit their head, or pass out unattended. If you can’t wake someone up, call for medical attention immediately.

8. Breathalyzers Actually Do Measure Alcohol on Your Breath

It might seem reasonable that a mint or a piece of gum can cover up your beer breath, but that’s actually not the case. Alcohol enters your body through your mouth, and gets passed along to the bloodstream when your liver’s no longer able to metabolize it (about one drink per hour). Once it’s floating around your body, it finds its way to your lungs, where the ethanol is exhaled as you breathe.

A breath mint may help your stinky breath, but it won’t fool a breathalyzer test. When you exhale into a breathalyzer, the alcohol molecules that live within your lungs will exit your body. That’s why it’s important to find a designated driver before you get behind the wheel; a peppermint can’t fool police officers.

9. Gender Does Have an Impact

There’s nothing sexist about it. Generally speaking, ladies are less tolerant of alcohol. UC Santa Cruz explains the male/female phenomenon well, providing data that drives the gender gap as it relates to drinking and driving.

Women are typically impaired far before their male counterparts. The average man can have about two drinks before he’s impaired to drive. Women around 140 pounds may be able to pass a BAC test, but they’re still significantly impaired in terms of driving. Women who weigh less have an even smaller window, as far as sobriety is concerned.

Women tend to be smaller than men in general, and their bodies metabolize alcohol at a different rate.

10. Ethnicity Makes an Impact

Certain genetics allow for expedient or slower processing of alcohol. According to ABC News, Asians and Native Americans process alcohol far more slowly than others. So slow, in fact, that they may not reach the point of intoxication because they become too flushed to continue drinking after just a few drinks.

There’s an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol, and not all ethnic groups are built with an abundance of this feature. That’s not to say everybody shouldn’t have a glass of wine after work, but it’s important to know why some people have a lower tolerance than others.

DUIs can happen to almost anybody. Even the most careful of drivers accidentally have one too many drinks from time to time. Sometimes, people are tired, and a normal amount of alcohol is exasperated, resulting in a terrible situation. There are a thousand reasons alcohol can impair your driving, but there’s only one solution if you’ve been arrested for a DUI—you need an attorney.

Jon Artz is a Los Angeles DUI lawyer who’s been in the business for many years. No matter the situation that resulted in your arrest, you’ll want to have him by your side as the process finds its way through the legal pipelines. Jon can be reached via online chat, phone, or through an online information form. Choose your preferred method now so Jon can start working on your case!

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