Myths

Much of what we learn about drinking and alcohol comes from what we hear from other people. But how much of it is true? The fact is that there are many myths and misconceptions out there that you should be aware of:

MYTH: Beer doesn’t have as much alcohol as hard liquor.

A 12-ounce bottle of beer has the same amount of alcohol as a standard shot of 80-proof liquor (either straight or in a mixed drink) or 5 ounces of wine10.

MYTH: Alcoholics drink every day.

The measure of alcoholism is not when or how often one drinks, but whether or not one can control the drinking once it begins. Some alcoholics drink daily, others may only drink on weekends or in binges which could occur weeks, months or even years apart. Get tips on how to talk to a friend who may be drinking too much.

MYTH: Coffee will sober up a drunk.

Your friend is feeling pretty drunk and wants to sober up fast, so he downs a couple cups of coffee. The coffee may make him a more wide-awake drunk, but he’s still just as drunk. Coffee is not a cure for drunkenness — same for cold showers or exercise. The only thing that sobers you up is time. In general, it takes about one hour for your body to eliminate one drink.

MYTH: If your friend passes out from drinking, you should put them to bed and allow them to "sleep it off."

The amount of alcohol it takes to make you pass out is dangerously close to the amount it takes to kill you. If a friend passes out from drinking, the last thing you want to do is drag him or her into a bedroom away from everyone else. If a friend passes out, keep a close eye on him or her, making sure his or her breathing and heart rate is normal. If there is any reason for concern, get medical attention immediately — you may save your friend’s life.

MYTH: Blacking out and passing out are the same thing.

Blacking out is a loss of memory — like not being able to remember the night before because you had so much to drink. Passing out is not being able to be awakened. Either is a sign that your friend might have a serious drinking problem.

MYTH: Your friend is OK to drive if they’ve only had a few drinks.

Too many good friends are lost to drinking and driving accidents. In fact, about half of all fatal traffic accidents among 18-24 year olds involve alcohol7. The safest choice is always to not drink and drive, and to make sure your friends don’t get behind the wheel after drinking. The amount of alcohol you can drink before your driving ability is impaired is different for everyone and depends on a lot of different factors, like how fast you drink, your weight, your gender and how much food you have in your stomach. It’s better to play it safe by having a designated driver or a plan to spend the night.

MYTH: Hangovers are caused by mixing different kinds of drinks.

Hangovers are caused by the amount of alcohol you drink, and how fast you drink it — not by types of alcohol. Drinking alcohol can dehydrate your body, irritate the lining of your stomach and cause blood sugar levels to drop, all of which contribute to hangovers. Get tips on preventing hangovers3,9.

MYTH: Someone who has had too much to drink will look drunk.

Just because your friends aren’t slurring their words and staggering around doesn’t mean they are not drunk. Judgment is the first thing affected when someone has been drinking — coordination and motor skills are second and third8. In other words, your friends might be making decisions they’ll regret as the result of being impaired, but never appear to be drunk.

MYTH: Alcohol is a stimulant.

Alcohol is a depressant — it sedates the central nervous system. One of the first areas of the brain to be affected is the cerebral cortex, which controls judgment, self-control and inhibitions. The depression on this part of the brain may result in excitable behavior, as inhibitions are lost9.

MYTH: Alcohol is an aphrodisiac.

Alcohol reduces inhibitions and may stimulate your interest in sex, but it reduces your ability to perform, including a man's ability to maintain an erection and both genders' ability to achieve orgasm10.

MYTH : Drinking milk or eating greasy foods before drinking will coat your stomach and keep you from getting drunk or sick.

The stomach cannot be "coated" to prevent alcohol absorption. However, it is a good idea to encourage your friends to eat foods rich in carbohydrates and proteins before consuming alcohol, because this helps reduce the amount of alcohol that is absorbed directly into the blood stream through the stomach10.

MYTH: The best cure for a hangover is “the hair of the dog that bit you.”

Many people think if they have a hangover, a shot of alcohol will make them feel better. This is sort of like giving water to a drowning person. The problem is the body is trying to recover from too much alcohol — why would you add to that?

MYTH: Alcohol affects you the same way every time you drink.

Not really. Your reactions vary depending on different circumstances — how you feel mentally and emotionally, your expectations, tolerance, if you’re on medications, etc.

MYTH: Women can drink just as much as men of the same size.

Women lack an enzyme that helps break down alcohol, so they cannot drink as much as men, even if they are the same size, which most are not. This is why there are different Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) charts for men and women.