How to avoid being absintheminded when drinking

Alcohol remains a double-edged sword.

So, alcohol. Despite the amount we consume, we pretend to our parents that we have never even seen a bottle of alcohol in our first few weeks of university, and profess to them our hatred of vodka, one of the vilest liquids known to man, alcohol plays an important social role within many cultures.

An alcoholic drink is a drink which contains ethanol, a type of alcohol produced by the fermentation of grains, fruits or other types of sugar. Yummy!

At a blood alcohol content of 0.03-0.12% you will begin to feel overall improvement in mood, possible euphoria, increased self-confidence and sociability. Which may explain why your mate will suddenly feel a calling to karaoke in Bierkeller. There may also be decreased anxiety, a flushed red appearance in the face, impaired judgment and fine muscle coordination, hence the dropping of VKs. But why does this happen?

Ethanol will disrupt the action of various neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals neurons use to send signals to each other. The action of glutamate, the main excitatory transmitter, is inhibited. Excitatory neurotransmitters allow activity to increase, and therefore alcohol will decrease the activity in your brain and act as a depressant. In addition to this, the effects of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA is amplified. This further lowers activity in certain areas.

“alcohol will decrease the activity in your brain and act as a depressant”

Alcohol will suppress activity in the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for rational thought, planning, assessment and anger suppression. The temporal lobes are where memory processing regions are located. This explains why after a couple of drinks we become more incoherent and forgetful.

But why do we enjoy it? We enjoy (or our brains do) alcohol because alcohol increases activity in the dopamine neurons in the mesolimbic reward pathway, as well as opioid cells that release endorphins. Both of these pathways will manufacture feelings of joy and pleasure.

If you continue drinking more alcohol your blood alcohol content will continue to rise and, as it reaches a BAC of around 0.25%, lethargy, sedation, balance problems and blurred vision will occur.

Then as BAC rises to 0.40% stupor and unconsciousness can occur, as well as anterograde amnesia. Vomiting will also occur as your body attempts to get rid of the toxin you’ve been drinking. A blood alcohol content of 0.35% to 0.80% can cause a coma, life-threatening respiratory depression or alcohol poisoning. The rate of elimination of alcohol from everyone’s body is different, so if your friends decide doubles is the way to go but you’re unsure, don’t copy them. They may have a higher rate of elimination of alcohol from their body, or they may just be an idiot heading towards being kicked out.

“a blood alcohol content of 0.35% to 0.80% can cause a coma, life-threatening respiratory depression or alcohol poisoning.”

There are many myths regarding drinking tonnes of coffee, cold showers and eating fatty foods. However, these are indeed myths and will not help sober you up. Your best bet is drinking water and staying warm. Most importantly watch out for alcohol poisoning symptoms of severely slurred speech, pale blue tinged skin, irregular/slow breathing or passed out or being unconscious.

So, enjoy freshers, drink plenty, but remember your limits all the same!

Gwen Ward


Alcohol poisoning – 

What are the risks? – Rethinking Drinking

Drink and be merry: why alcohol makes us feel good, then doesn’t – 

Principles of Forensic Toxicology –

Minimum Legal Age Limits For Alcohol Consumption –

Featured image courtesy of Valerie via Flickr. No changes were made to this image. Image use license here.

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