Alcohol impairs everyone’s ability to react

Pamela Egan Practical Practitioner

By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE

Alcohol impairs everyone’s ability to react

Dear Pam,

How much can I drink and still drive safely?

NOTHING! Alcohol slows down the central nervous system and reaction time with every sip. Even when a person is under the legal limit, crashes and other problems are more likely to occur. Never drink and drive — not even a little bit.

Students in eight states submitted anonymous questions about drinking. Here are the questions they most wanted to know about.

Can getting drunk mess with my brain, even after I sober up?

Yes. Your brain may take as long as 48 hours to return to normal after a big night of drinking.

What is alcohol poisoning? How much would I have to drink to get it?

Alcohol poisoning is when too much alcohol shuts off the central nervous system. This can stop breathing and heartbeat. How much alcohol this takes depends on a person’s gender and weight. But death is possible when the blood alcohol level reaches .30 percent or higher.

What’s the best way to get over a hangover fast?

There’s no quick fix. A hangover is the result of having too much of a drug in the body. A few things you can do: Drink water- Alcohol dehydrates you body. This is what causes “cotton mouth” and sore muscles. Rest- Give your body time to recover. Don’t take over-the-counter hangover remedies while you’re still drunk. They can cause stomach, kidney or liver problems. The best way is to never drink enough to get really drunk.

How can I make sure my drink isn’t spiked with other drugs?

Do the best you can to be in control of what goes into your drink. Never leave your drink unattended. Don’t accept open containers from people you don’t know. (There are products that can detect certain “date rape” drugs. But they won’t tell if someone’s added more alcohol to your drink, and alcohol is the main date rape drug.)

Why can some people drink more than others without getting drunk?

This is called tolerance. But there’s a catch – a person with tolerance only seems less drunk. His blood alcohol level is identical to anyone of the same gender and weight who’s had the same amount to drink over the same amount of time. Reaction time impairment is the same as well.

What happens when you drink and take other drugs at the same time?

Taking a drug that has similar effects to alcohol makes each drug unpredictably stronger. Drugs that have the opposite effect can cause a tug of war in your body and cover up signals that might tell you to stop. You could end up using more of both drugs. There is also some evidence that mixing alcohol and cocaine can increase the risk of death.

How much would a “social drinker” drink at a party?

How many drinks this is depends on time and a person’s gender and weight. For example, a 160-pound man would limit himself to three drinks over two hours. A 130-pound woman would limit herself to two drinks over two hours.

What’s the lowest calorie drink?

Most alcohol ranges between 80 to 150 calories per drink.

With mixed drinks, you need to count the calories in the mixer as well. Mineral water wins with zero calories.

For more information check National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and alcoholism. > Health Articles > Health and Wellness