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Alcohol’s Effects Begin Quickly and Last Longer Than Most Believe!

Date: December 8, 2022

Many of us look forward to celebrations during the holidays.  It is also a time when some people are likely to drink beyond their limits more than at other times of the year. Some people will experience adverse consequences that range from fights to falls to traffic accidents. Unfortunately, myths about drinking persist, including how quickly alcohol affects the body and how long the side effects from alcohol consumption last.

People may not recognize that critical decision-making abilities and driving-related skills are already diminished long before they show overt signs of intoxication. Initially, alcohol may appear to act as a stimulant, making you feel upbeat and excited. But don’t be fooled. Alcohol decreases inhibitions and judgment which can lead to reckless decisions. Reaction times get longer, and behavior becomes poorly controlled and sometimes even aggressive. Continued consumption causes the slurred speech and loss of balance that is typically associated with being drunk. Alcohol can also cause blackouts—which are gaps in a person’s memory while they were intoxicated. These gaps happen when alcohol temporarily blocks the transfer of memories from short-term to long-term storage—known as memory consolidation. At higher blood alcohol concentration levels, alcohol acts as a clear depressant, which can cause people to pass out. At even higher levels, people who drink face the danger of life-threatening alcohol overdose due to the suppression of vital life functions.

Even when drinking stops, alcohol’s effects do not stop.  It’s easy to misjudge how long alcohol’s effects last. For example, many people believe that they will begin to sober up—and be able to drive safely—once they stop drinking and have a cup of coffee. The truth is that alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink has been finished. Even after drinking stops, alcohol remaining in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream, resulting in impaired judgment and coordination for hours.

So, this holiday season, don’t underestimate the effects of alcohol. Think before you drink. Use a designated sober driver if you know you will be ingesting any alcohol.

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