Myths About Alcohol

Myth 1:

You really have to admire a person who can hold his/her liquor.

The person who can drink large quantities of alcohol without feeling the "normal" effects may have developed a tolerance to alcohol. Tolerance comes from chronic use of alcohol that results in physical and mental adaptation to its presence in the body. The development of tolerance is shown by an increase in the amount of alcohol required to produce the desired effects and can indicate the onset of physical dependence.

Myth 2:

Alcohol can be used as a food supplement.

Alcohol has no nutritional value. It contains no vitamins, minerals or proteins. It does contain a significant number of calories, however. The calories can produce an immediate source of energy which causes food that is normally used for energy production to be changed into fat and stored in the body for later use.

Myth 3:

Alcohol warms the body.

The direct action of alcohol causes a drop in the internal body temperature by the following process. The blood vessels are opened (dilated) on the skin surfaces and the blood is cooled by greater exposure to the outer environment. As the cooled blood circulates, the core temperature is lowered gradually, but significantly. This process is continued as long as alcohol is present in the body.

Myth 4:

Alcohol is a stimulant drug.

Alcohol is a depressant; it sedates the central nervous system. One of the first areas of the brain to be affected is the cerebral cortex, which controls judgment, self-control and inhibitions. The depression on this part of the brain may result in excitable behavior, as inhibitions are lost.

Myth 5:

Hangovers are caused by switching drinks.

Hangovers are caused by the amount of alcohol consumed and the rate at which it is consumed, not by the kind of alcohol consumed. While metabolizing alcohol, the liver cannot perform its normal functions, one of which is keeping the blood sugar at a normal concentration. The results of this state called hypoglycemia, or lower than normal blood sugar. The change in blood vessels, as mentioned in Myth 3, can cause headaches. Lastly, a hangover is actually a "mini-withdrawal." When the central nervous system is released from the depressed state, the opposite state develops-feeling edgy and irritable. This effect is known as "rebound."

Myth 6:

Alcoholics drink every day.

Alcoholics are of many kinds: those who drink daily; those who drink on weekends; those who drink in binges which could occur weeks, months or even years apart. The measure of alcoholism is not when or how often one drinks, but whether or not one can control the drinking once it begins.

Myth 7:

You can't become an alcoholic by drinking only beer.

Actually, Americans drink almost ten times as much beer as they do "hard" liquor. Although the content of alcohol in beer is relatively low, this means that one-half the alcohol drunk is consumed as beer. Given these facts, it seems reasonable to say that there are many alcoholics who are only beer drinkers.

Myth 8:

Black coffee or a cold shower sobers a drunk.

Black coffee and cold showers only produce wide-awake drunks. Only time will rid the body of alcohol. There is no known way of speeding the metabolic process of eliminating alcohol from the body.