Just because a phrase is well known doesn’t make it true, this clinical expert explains why some of the most common myths about alcohol are just that… myths.
It is not uncommon for people to hold familiar myths as fact. Many people regard old college proverbs about partying and alcohol as tried and true. But facts are facts, people! We wanted to find out what science had to say about some common alcohol myths that might have no scientific basis to them. Dr. Duy Nguyen, a psychiatrist and addiction treatment specialist at Beachway Therapy Center in Boynton Beach, Florida offers his expertise on the topic.
Myth #1: Eating After a Night of Heavy Drinking will reduce your Hangover the Next Day
It’s hard to find a group of friends that hasn’t made a junk food trip after a night of drinking and partying. The general belief is that food will sober you up by helping absorb the alcohol you’ve consumed throughout the night. However, our expert suggests that by the time you eat that corner store donut, it might be too late. “Alcohol hits the bloodstream almost immediately after consumption. By the time you eat the junk food you crave, your system has already absorbed the alcohol,” says Dr. Nguyen. “Instead make a mindful decision to eat something before you begin to drink and then party and drink with moderation to avoid the negative effects of alcohol. Remember that food prior to a night of drinks only delays the absorption of alcohol but it doesn’t clear you from the consequences of too much drinking,” warns Dr. Nguyen.
Myth #2: A Cold Shower will Sober You Right Up
Many people think this is an effective way to get over the strain under which they put their body the night prior. The truth is though the cold shower can make you more alert because of the shock of the cold water it won’t change what is going on in your body. Your liver is dealing with the alcohol you subjected it to and your body is dealing with the fatigue. “ The standard notion is that your liver metabolizes 1 to 1.5 ounces of liquor in an hour. That is one standard drink. If you drank more than that then it piles up in the blood and body tissue until the liver has time to process it. The system has to run its course in processing the alcohol and a cold shower wouldn’t change what is already inside your system waiting to be metabolized,” explains Dr. Nguyen.
Myth #3: Liquor prior to Beer is safe but Beer prior to liquor can make you… sicker
The myth originates from the misconception that one standard beer has less liquor than a shot of hard liquor like vodka or whiskey. This is not true. Basically, the idea is that you start with the “stronger” liquor in order to get inebriated quickly and then the “lighter” alcohol to keep the buzz going. One standard shot of vodka has the same about of liquor as a 12 ounce of beer. So the only thing you are affecting is the volume at which you start. In any case drinking too much alcohol to quickly, regardless of what you are drinking will make you sick. “Pacing yourself is the key to not being sick. Anything in excess can be dangerous and that is especially true for alcohol,” says Dr. Duy Nguyen who practices his specialty at Beachway Therapy Center, a dual diagnosis treatment facility in Boynton Beach, Florida.
Myth #4: “I can sober up quickly if I had to”
It’s surprising how many people believe in their own ability to sober up if a serious enough situation arises. This belief is dangerous because aside from being scientifically inaccurate, it leads to poor decision making. “Drunk drivers often believe that they can sober up once they have to drive and they can end up causing accidents, hurting other people or themselves and getting into major trouble with the authorities,” explains Dr. Nguyen. There is no change to the blood alcohol level in your body caused by the need to sober up. You may feel some adrenaline that makes you more alert or awoken momentarily but your perception will still be impaired and brain functions dealing with decision making and operations will still be under the influence.
Myth #5: Puking will sober you right up
Puking can only relieve you of a very small amount of alcohol if done immediately after drinking. The system begins absorbing the alcohol almost immediately and it is likely that by the time you begin to feel nausea there is too much alcohol in your system already. “The brain has a system in place for detecting and receiving signals from the body that toxins have reached a dangerous level and that the body must puke to survive,” explains Dr. Nguyen. “The process of emesis (vomiting) takes place in a few steps. The central nervous system detects the excess of alcohol through the Chemoreceptor trigger zone. This part of the brain then sends signals to the Integrated Vomiting Centre of the brain stimulating the body’s function to expulse the excess toxins from the body.”
Though the body tries it’s best to survive the puking does not sober you up right away and if you get to that level of intoxication, puking will surely not prevent a hangover the next morning.
Myth #6: Painkillers while drinking will prevent a Hangover
Medications are not to be taken with alcohol. Period. Pills like aspirin or ibuprofen are popular for headaches and people disregard the detrimental effects of taking these medications while drinking. Alcohol is a toxin that irritates the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. It can also affect the liver and the central nervous system when taken in excess. Ibuprofen and aspirin can make this worse. “Long term use of this combo of substances can cause damage to your liver and kidneys and deteriorate the lining of your digestive system,” says Dr. Nguyen
Myth #7: Once you break the seal you can stop running to the restroom
Many people will drink heavily and party hard but will hold urine all night because of the ubiquitous belief that breaking your seal and going to the restroom will have you peeing all night. This is an erroneous and problematic says Dr. Nguyen. “Our bodies have a hormone that helps your system reabsorb water from urine and helps dictate the amount of time it takes your bladder to fill up. Alcohol suppresses that hormone and as a result, your bladder fills up quicker because it is not receiving signals to reabsorb water already in your system. Leaving you, aside from dehydrated, with the need to go to the restroom regardless of how long you hold it in.”
About Dr. Duy Nguyen:
Dr. Duy Nguyen D.O. is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist at Beachway Therapy Center trained in general psychiatry who specializes in providing psychiatric care in a variety of settings including residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation, inpatient and outpatient mental health, and the VA Medical Center. Dr. Nguyen is committed to providing a high level of evidence-based psychiatric care in the drug rehabilitation setting in addition to having a holistic focus on healing and recovery.
About Beachway Therapy Center
Beachway provides a continuum of care, from PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program) to Outpatient services. The facility offers a fully individualized treatment plan that meets the clinical and medical needs of each client usually lasting between 30 and 90 days. Beachway provides an extremely low client to therapist ratio and under high-level professional supervision, clients can begin to recover in a safe, residential-like environment. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) motivational interviewing, addiction counseling, 12-Step orientation, DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy,) trauma-informed practices and a wide variety of supportive group therapies are offered