12 myths about alcohol you swore were true

Lena Høyberg

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Is it true that if you drink beer after wine you’ll feel fine – but if you drink wine after beer you’ll feel queer? How much can we drink, what should we drink and is it safe to pop a painkiller before chugging a beer? There are a lot of different opinions out there, and it’s not easy to know which ones to trust.

Professor David J. Hanson, from the State University of New York, has researched this subject for forty years, and he is clearing up some confusing myths. On his website, which is called ‘Alcohol – Problems and Solutions’, he writes about the large number of myths that have risen around the popular subject that is alcohol.

1. A “beer belly” is caused by drinking beer

False: A “beer belly” is not caused by too much beer – but too much food. It may come as a surprise that even people that keeps away from the spirits may have “beer bellies”.

2. Drink beer after wine and you’ll feel fine – and don’t swith between beer, wine and spirits

False: Considering the next day it’s the amount of alcohol and how long you have been affected that matters the most – not the order in which you drink the different types of alcohol. It is wise to not drink too much too quickly. Alcohol is alcohol, and a drink is a drink.

3. Drinking coffee or tea will help a drunk person sober up

False: Only time can sober up a person – not black coffee, cold showers, exercise, or any other common “cures”. The amount of time it takes depends on the person’s sex, age, weight, and similar factors.

4. People who abstain from alcohol are “alcohol-free”

False: Every person produces alcohol normally in the body 24 hours every day from birth until death. Therefore, we always have alcohol in our bodies.

5. People in the US are generally heavy consumers of alcohol

False: The US isn’t even among the top ten alcohol consuming countries. Neither is Ireland, surprisingly enough. However; Portugal, Luxembourg and France ranks top three.

More myths under the picture.

MYTHS: Does a night out 'binge drinking' destroy your brain cells? PHOTO: Lena Stette Hoeyberg.
MYTHS: Does a night out ‘binge drinking’ destroy your brain cells? PHOTO: Lena Stette Høyberg.

6. A night out ‘binge drinking’ will destroy your brain cells

Both: A study done in France has actually proved that a moderate alcohol consumption may have a beneficial effect on mental function. But the more often you drink and the more you consume, there’s a greater chance that you’ll lose brain cells over time.

7. It’s dangerous to take painkillers with alcohol

True: Basically you should think carefully about taking painkillers before you drink alcohol. Preferably talk to your doctor or a pharmacist. Painkillers such as aspirin and other pills can cause bleeding when combining them with alcohol.

Do you know your own limits? Check the alcohol calculator here.

8. Alcohol destroys the effect of antibiotics

False: It has long been believed that alcohol breaks down the antibiotics in the stomach, and that the amount of antibiotic absorbed is reduced. But alcohol has no damaging effect on antibiotics. However, it is not wise to drink if you have an infection, since alcohol can weaken the body’s defense against infection.

9. A proper workout the next day will drive away the hangover

False: As mentioned earlier in the article – only time can get rid of the alcohol in your blood. It is well documented that there is nothing to gain from exercising the next day. Some argue the opposite, that it’s not harmful as long as you listen to your body. However, it’s a fact that men have less strength in their body if they have had alcohol in their blood 1-1.5 hours before. Alcohol reduces the testosterone level that is required for muscle building.

10. When it’s hot we sweat out the alcohol and we can drink more than usual

False: Alcohol disappears mainly out of the system through the liver. 95 percent is lost this way. Two percent is lost through the lungs, while one or two percent is lost through the urine. Only one percent is lost through sweat. But if it’s really hot, maybe you can double that to two percent, but it means almost nothing in the grand scheme of things.

More myths under the picture.

MYTHS: Are you mixing painkillers with alcohol? Not a good idea. PHOTO: Lena Stette Hoeyberg.
MYTHS: Are you mixing painkillers with alcohol? Not a good idea. PHOTO: Lena Stette Høyberg.

11. Alcohol keeps us warm in the cold

False: Alcohol causes a certain expansion of the blood vessels. This means that if you come in from the cold and stand in front of the fireplace to get warm, alcohol can help a little. But if you are out in the cold, the alcohol will only increase heat loss.

12. Allergy pills can prevent a hangover

False: It’s done a few studies on that, and although most of the results are unclear, the conclusion is basically that allergy pills have no effect. In general, when the hangover turns up we have little to provide.

Last but not least – put on a jacket the next time you’re going out – it’s better to stumble into a ditch with a jacket on than having no jacket at all. And remember to stay away from the Portuguese and French – they drink a lot.

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Lena Høyberg

Norwegian journalist, 23. Studying at Griffith College, Dublin.