Try fun and sober for the holidays

Was the first resolution you made last New Year’s Day prompted by the headache and sick feeling you woke up with January 1? Maybe you had to deal with the consequences of a holiday car accident? Or was it the fallout from something you did at a party that everyone else remembers all too well, but you don’t?

Many people, whether or not they have problems with alcohol the rest of the year, drink too much over the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The same happens on birthdays, graduations, and many other social occasions. Some people drink more at these times because they feel lonely, shy, or awkward. Some drink because “friends” push them to drink, or because they think it’s what everyone is expected to do at parties.

Each year at the holidays many people drink themselves, and others, to death through car accidents, suicide, or homicide. People are raped or injured, and rape or injure others, because of alcohol-related bad judgment and loss of inhibitions.

Why does this happen?

Because people don’t understand what a powerful drug alcohol really is. Brain function is impaired after the first drink, well before a person begins to feel drunk. The first effects are poor judgment and slow reaction time. By the time a person is aware of being tipsy, they have poor coordination, distorted vision, and disorientation. This is why people are often arrested for drunk driving when they honestly believe they are not drunk. Even when a person doesn’t feel intoxicated, one or two drinks makes it dangerous for them to drive, especially in the dark or on wet or icy roads.

You can get every bit as drunk on beer, wine, or eggnog as you can on rum or vodka. A drink of alcohol is defined medically as 12 oz of beer or wine cooler, 5 oz of wine (less for heavy wines like sherry), or 1 ½ oz of liquor (rum, whiskey, vodka,tequila).

Two drinks within two hours, especially without food, will impair judgment and coordination and raise blood alcohol levels above the legal limit. It takes just one drink to impair judgment and coordination for older people, for many women, for men who weigh 140 pounds or less, and for anyone who rarely drinks.

You cannot tell how intoxicated a person is by whether or not they appear drunk. The best guide to whether a person is impaired is not how they feel or how they look, but how much they have had to drink and over what period of time they drank it.

It takes about an hour for the liver to process one drink of alcohol. That means that after 4 drinks, which many people wouldn’t consider excessive at a party, a person needs to wait 4 hours after the last drink to be able to drive safely. Do you know anyone who waits that long?

Sobering-up methods like cold showers, hot coffee, and fresh air can make a person more alert, but, because they don’t lower the blood alcohol level, they don’t make a person any more sober or help them drive more safely.

If you think alcohol has to be part of a fun night out, ask yourself why. If it wouldn’t be fun with a clear mind, is it really that much fun?

For your safety, consider not drinking at the next party or celebration you go to. If you don’t want to do that, avoid driving. It might be a great start to a sane New Year.

Ask Dr. Eva is distributed by Healthy Living News. Dr. Eva Hersh is Chief Medical Officer at Chase Brexton Health Services. Email comments and questions to dreva AT or write to Eva Hersh MD, Chase Brexton Health Services, 1001 Cathedral St., Baltimore, MD 21201

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