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Top ten misconceptions about alcohol

Alcoholic beverages have been around for approximately 9,000 years and as such, they have become a part of our culture. Since its discovery, people have learned a great deal about the intoxicating nature and other effects of alcohol. Unfortunately, there are still a number of misconceptions surrounding alcohol that could put people’s health and safety at risk.

  • One common misconception is that beer and wine are less intoxicating than hard alcohol and mixed drinks. This idea neglects the different serving sizes of alcoholic beverages. In reality, one shot of spirit is equal to one 12-ounce can of beer or four ounces of wine. This means that, while the serving sizes of drinks may vary, the amount of alcohol they contain does not

  • Another common mistake is using coffee to sober up. In reality, the only way to sober up is time. Alcohol is expelled from the body via a number of ways and is also processed by the body at a rate of approximately one unit per hour. Adding coffee or anything else will not speed up this process

  • Many people also believe that a high tolerance for alcohol is a good thing. People who cannot drink large quantities of alcohol may be chided as 'lightweights' but an increased tolerance can be an early indicator of alcohol addiction and may also be a pre-cursor to serious health problems

  • Some people also believe that a big meal can help increase your tolerance for alcohol but in reality, it only slows absorption, which does nothing to stop people becoming intoxicated

  • Along with eating a big meal, many people believe that drinking a large glass of water will help them recover faster from a heavy drinking session. While this may help reduce dehydration, which can worsen a hangover, it will not stop alcohol absorption and cannot protect you from the harm caused by binge drinking

  • When the days are shorter and the nights colder, many people may have a drink in order to keep warm. This is yet another misconception around alcohol. It may make you feel warm but that cosy feeling will not stave off the cold. The reason you feel warm when you drink is because of something called vasodilation. This is when your blood vessels widen to allow more blood to travel through them. That means more warm blood can move from your core to your extremities. When it is cold, this can be a very bad thing as it causes your core to cool much faster, which can speed the onset of hypothermia

  • One of the most common misconceptions centres on binge drinking. Most people are unaware that drinking more than their daily limit, (three to four units a day for men and two to three units for women) is considered binge drinking. Just to put that into perspective, a pint of beer and a standard glass of wine are around two units. If you have ever finished off a bottle of wine by yourself, that was 10 units. Binge drinking of any kind is not good for you, but if you do have a heavy night, it is important to give your body 48 hours without alcohol to help it recover

  • Another misconception around drinking is that alcohol affects everyone the same way. There are a number of different factors that can affect how you will react to alcohol, including weight, metabolism, gender, the chemistry of your body and even your previous drinking habits

  • One reason people may overindulge stems from how alcohol is perceived. Many people think alcohol is somehow safer than other illegal drugs. In fact, many people do not think of alcohol as a drug at all. In reality, alcohol is a drug and, while it is more socially acceptable than many other drugs, it is one of the most abused drugs in society. Alcohol can also be addictive and very harmful to your body

  • The final misconception is that alcohol addicts drink every day. In reality, you do not have to drink every day, or even every week to have a problem with alcohol. People with a binge drinking problem may go months without drinking but when they do drink, they still do so to a dangerous level. An easy way to understand if you have a problem with alcohol is to look at what it affects. If alcohol has had a negative impact on your home life, friends, social life, school, job, legal matters, leisure activities, physical health and finances, it could be a sign you have a problem
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