Information on Alcohol Hazards
Let's define alcohol
Operation Clear Goggles understands that abstinence from alcohol is the only no-risk alternative and the only legal option for those under 21 years of age. At the same time, we acknowledge the New Orleans culture, and think that underage college students who choose to drink should learn to do so with the least amount of risk and harm possible.
What kind of substance is alcohol?
Alcohol is classified as a depressant because it slows down the central nervous system, causing a decrease in motor coordination, reaction time and intellectual performance. At high doses, the respiratory system slows down drastically and can cause a coma or death
How does alcohol move through the body?
Once swallowed, a drink enters the stomach and small intestine, where small blood vessels carry it to the bloodstream. Approximately 20% of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach and most of the remaining 80% is absorbed through the small intestine. Alcohol is metabolized by the liver, where enzymes break down the alcohol. In general, the liver can process one ounce of liquor (or one standard drink) in one hour. If you consume more than this, your system becomes saturated, and the additional alcohol will accumulate in the blood and body tissues until it can be metabolized. This is why pounding shots or playing drinking games can result in high blood alcohol concentrations that last for several hours.
How much is "one" drink?
A standard drink contains about 14 grams (about 0.6 fluid ounces) of pure alcohol. Counting your drinks gets tricky when a drink container holds multiple standard drinks, such as a red cup or certain mixed drinks. Approximate standard drink equivalents are below:
- 12 oz. of beer (Note: A red SOLO cup holds 16 oz).
- 5 oz. of table wine (Note: Table wine bottles, typically 750ml, hold five standard drinks).
- 8-9 oz. of malt liquor. (Note: Malt liquor is often sold in 16, 22, or 40-oz. containers that hold two to five standard drinks).
- 1.5 oz of 80 proof liquor (Note: The same amount of liquors with higher alcohol content, above 80 proof, contain more than one standard drink).
What are some common effects of drinking alcohol?
- Cause mood swings.
- Make you less patient.
- Give you a false sense of confidence.
- Make you more aggressive.
- Impede your ability to make responsible decisions.
- Make you less cautious
Alcohol may impair:
- Muscle coordination
- Sense of touch
- Sense of Control
- Your ability to react and form judgments
- Vision by decreasing
- Peripheral (side) vision
- Frontal vision and focusing
- Ability to recover from glare
- Number and speed of scans
- Depth perception
- Color sensitivity
These effects increase substantially when alcohol is combined with other drugs.
What are the short-term risks of drinking?
When you're drinking, one of the first things to go is your judgment. So, celebrating or having fun with friends can quickly turn into embarrassing yourself, getting hurt, throwing up or nursing a hangover. These statistics show the very real risks of drinking in college:
- 70% of college students admit to engaging in unplanned sexual activity primarily as a result of drinking or to having sex they wouldn't have had if they had been sober.
- At least 1 out of 5 college students abandons safer sex practices when they're drunk, even if they do protect themselves when they're sober.
- Heavy drinkers consistently have lower grades.
- One night of heavy drinking can impair your ability to think abstractly and grasp difficult concepts for as long as a month.
What is alcohol poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone has consumed more alcohol than their body can safely metabolize.
Warning signs include:
- Won't wake up
- Vomiting while passed out
- Slow/irregular breathing
- Extreme confusion
- Pale skin
What should you do?
- Call 911 immediately.
- Do not let them "sleep it off." Even though the person may have stopped drinking, alcohol continues to be released into the bloodstream, and alcohol levels continue to rise. If left alone, the person's symptoms could get worse.
- Do not try to make the person vomit. Someone who is very drunk has an impaired gag reflex and may choke on their vomit or accidentally inhale vomit into their lungs.
- Turn the person on their side to prevent choking while vomiting.
- Stay calm.
What happens if you don't do anything?
- Hypothermia (severely low body temperature)
- Irregular or stopped heart beats
- Slowed, irregular, or stopped breathing
- Severe dehydration
Even if the person lives, an alcohol overdose can cause irreversible brain damage.
Not sure? Call 911.
- Not sure if you should call? Just call 911. Let the medical professionals make the educated decisions.
- Serious medical repercussions or death are obviously worse than a hospital bill.
A blackout is caused by the intake of any substance that disrupts the creation of long term memory.
Alcohol also affects the functioning of the hippocampus, which affects emotion, memory, and learning capabilities.
Blackouts (alcoholic or drug related amnesia) occur when people lose or have no memory of what happened while intoxicated. These periods may last from a few hours to several days. During a blackout, someone may appear fine to others; however, cannot remember parts of the night and what they did. The cause may involve the brain’s diminished ability to store short term memory, deep seizures, or in some cases, psychological depression. Blackouts shouldn't be confused with "passing out," which happens when people lose consciousness from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Anyone who loses consciousness has reached a very dangerous level of intoxication and could slip into a coma.
How can I prevent a blackout?
- Blackouts tend to occur after rapid consumption of alcohol, especially on an empty stomach.
- It’s not how much you drink, but how fast you drink.
- Avoid chugging or gulping alcoholic beverages.
- Eat a meal before you begin drinking.
Types of blackouts
- No details are remembered
- People tend to fall asleep before it’s over
- Conversations and behaviors are only stored for 2 minutes or less
- Memory is intact for 2 minutes or less
Partial blackout (brownout)
- More common than full blackouts
- Partial blockade of memory function
- Missing information but some memory recall
What is a hangover, and can I prevent it?
Hangovers are the body’s withdrawal symptoms from alcohol use and the body's reaction to the toxicity of alcohol. The severity of symptoms varies according to the individual and the quantity of alcohol consumed.
Symptoms may include:
There are many myths about how to prevent or alleviate hangovers, and many different approaches to relieve the effects of "the morning after", but the only safe way to prevent a hangover is to drink in moderation.
- Eat a good dinner and continue to snack throughout the night.
- Alternate one alcoholic drink with one non-alcoholic drink. (Water is a GREAT choice)
- Avoid drinking games or shots. Drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short amount of time is the most likely way to become dangerously intoxicated.
Here are some things that won't help a hangover.
Drinking a little more alcohol the next day. This simply puts more alcohol in your body and prolongs the effects of the alcohol intoxication.
- Having caffeine while drinking will not counteract the intoxication of alcohol; you simply get a more alert drunk person. Excessive caffeine will continue to lower your blood sugar and dehydrate you even more than alcohol alone.
- Cold showers will only make you cleaner not sober or help with a hangover.
- Giving water to someone who is throwing up. Once the stomach is irritated enough to cause vomiting, it doesn't matter what you put into it; it's going to come back up. Any liquid will cause a spasm reaction and more vomiting.
- Tylenol (acetaminophen) may help with a headache, but the liver is on overdrive getting rid of the alcohol. Acetaminophen will only make it work harder and may become lethal.
Here are some things that might help a hangover.
- Hydrate, Hydrate, HYDRATE! Drink plenty of water and juice.
- Eat a healthy meal. Processing alcohol causes a drop in blood sugar and can contribute to headaches.
- An over-the-counter antacid (Tums, Pepto Bismol or Maalox) may relieve some of the symptoms of an upset stomach.
- Eat complex carbohydrates like breads, cereals or pasta. Simple sugars from soft drinks and candy get used up quickly, so they aren't as good of a choice.
Mixing drugs and alcohol
Alcohol and Energy Drinks/Caffeine
When using Red Bull or Monster as a mixer or drinking pre-mixed drinks like Four Loko or Sparks, you are tricking your body into thinking it’s not tired. Your body is more intoxicated than you may feel, which can lead to alcohol poisoning. Energy drinks also increase dehydration which leads to hangovers the next day. Those who consumed both alcohol and caffeine were at least two times as likely -- compared to those drinking alcohol without caffeine -- to be hurt, need medical attention, take sexual advantage of another, or accept a ride with someone who was inebriated.
Alcohol and Adderall
Adderall causes one to feel like they are not as drunk as they really are. This can lead to making very dangerous decisions since you are unaware of your level of intoxication. Because alcohol is a depressant and Adderall is a stimulant, drinking alcohol while taking Adderall can cause cardiac arrhythmias, and paranoid or psychotic reactions, on top of the risks of vomiting, dizziness, muscle twitching and headaches that are more likely to increase when mixed with alcohol.
When prescribed Adderall, patients are advised not to drink alcohol. The side-effects could be much more dangerous for students using Adderall without a prescription.
Alcohol and Painkillers
Includes: Vicodin, Xanax, Oxycontin, Percocet, Demerol, Norco, etc.
Mixing painkillers with alcohol is dangerous. The mixture of these two substances can lead to intensified sedative effects and respiratory depression. Painkillers can lead to liver problems and disease when used recreationally, the mixture of this drug with alcohol can intensify these side-effects.
Alcohol and Marijuana
Mixing these two substances can cause heavy vomiting, spins, very strong paranoia, decreased motor control and decreased mental concentration. Also, because marijuana suppresses the gag reflex, you may not be able to throw up alcohol when your body needs to.
Alcohol and Cocaine
These two substances are commonly mixed with the thought that they cancel each other out; this is NOT TRUE. Combining cocaine and alcohol produces a high amount of a third unique substance, called cocaethylene. A high amount of cocaethylene in the body increases the already harmful risk of cardiovascular toxicity to a much higher extent than any other drug. Cardiovascular toxicity causes pressure and stress on the heart.
Alcohol and Heroin
Each of these substances alone causes depression of the central nervous system, so the mixture of the two is extremely dangerous and has been proven to be fatal.
Alcohol and Ecstasy
It is very well known that one should never mix ecstasy with any other drug substance, especially alcohol. It is known that most ecstasy related deaths have been due to the mixture of alcohol with the drug. When the two are mixed the alcohol reduces the feeling of the ecstasy’s high and puts a much greater strain on the kidneys. Also, dehydration caused by drinking alcohol occurs more rapidly when on ecstasy.
Alcohol and LSD/Acid
Alcohol is mixed with LSD to take down or slow down the effects and relax. However, more commonly combining alcohol can make the comedown of the drug much worse with extreme nausea and vomiting.
Alcohol and Amphetamines
Amphetamines alone are very risky because of the strain on the heart and the increase in blood pressure. When mixing alcohol with amphetamines side-effects can become much more serious. Consuming alcohol while taking amphetamines can make someone act very aggressive and irresponsible; it is extremely harmful to the kidneys and intensifies hangover effects.
Alcohol and Antibiotics
It is important to always read the labels on prescription medications and adhere to the warnings about alcohol intake. Drinking alcohol while on antibiotics can cause nausea, dizziness, vomiting, fatigue and in some cases convulsions, immense headache, flushing, rapid heart rate and shortness of breath. Since antibiotics and alcohol are both broken down through the liver the combination of these substances can result in liver damage. This combination also diminishes the effects of the antibiotics you are taking. Try to focus on getting healthy again. You’ll probably enjoy drinking more once you’re healthy anyway.
Alcohol and Antidepressants
Combining alcohol with antidepressants (Zoloft, Prozac, etc.) can cause an increased response to alcohol -- For example, having one drink might feel like two. Also, the combination might make create unexpected emotions and inhibit the antidepressant from doing what it's supposed to do. If it is a new prescription, try it out without drinking alcohol so you are familiar with your body's reaction first and ask your doctor if you have problems.
Alcohol and Antihistamines
Drinking alcohol while taking antihistamines can cause a less effective outcome of the medication. Your body will choose to metabolize the alcohol before the antihistamines. Labels typically suggest you stay away from alcohol all together when on antihistamines so it is very important to always check any label on the drug.
Alcohol and Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills take three full hours to get into your blood stream and be effective. If you vomit due to drinking or any other causes before that three hour window, the effectiveness of birth control pills is diminished. Mixing alcohol and birth control can make some people feel nauseous, which can cause vomiting.
Question: What's the best way to sober up?
A. take a cold shower
B. drink black coffee
D. eat bread
E. make yourself throw up
None of the above! The amount of alcohol in your blood is controlled by the metabolic rate of the liver. The only effective thing that will sober someone up is time.
FYI - It takes as many hours to sober up as the number of drinks ingested. Even after a night's sleep, someone can still wake up with a BAC over .08, which is legally drunk in Louisiana.