8 Debunked Myths About Drinking Alcohol

Enjoying a well earned beer after the long week
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Thanks to ongoing research on the effects of alcohol, we now know that there are many risks associated with drinking, including learning and memory problems, impaired driving, unintentional injuries, violence, unsafe sexual behavior, suicide attempts, overdoses, and addiction.

Yet many myths remain about alcohol and alcohol misuse, and many can interfere with you or someone you love recognizing the warnings signs of alcohol abuse and seeking help.

By debunking these common myths about alcohol and revealing the facts, you can hopefully be better prepared to drink responsibility, or explore your relationship with alcohol.

Myth: Everyone Reacts to Alcohol the Same Way

As with most things in life, different people react differently. There are many factors that affect a person's reaction to alcohol, including body weight, metabolism, tolerance level, gender, and body chemistry. Also, there may be various genetic factors that come into play as to how individuals react to drinking alcohol and whether the are vulnerable to addiction.

Myth: I'm Too Old to Have a Drinking Problem

Alcohol use disorders don't discriminate. In fact, in the past 10 years there has been a steady rise in alcohol use disorders among those ages 65 and older. What's more, people with alcohol use disorder who are middle-aged and older are at a significantly higher risk for suicide compared to their younger counterparts.

Myth: I'm Fine, I Only Drink Wine on the Weekends

Problem drinking isn't about what type of alcohol you drink, nor is it about on which days you drink. If you or someone you love is binge drinking every Friday and Saturday night, it could signal a problem with alcohol.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines heavy alcohol use as binge drinking on five or more days in the past month.

As for the definition of binge drinking: Having five or more alcoholic drinks (for men) or four or more drinks (for women) on the same occasion (within a couple of hours of each other) on at least one day in the past month.

Myth: Having Tolerance Is a Good Thing

Developing alcohol tolerance could be a clue that you or someone you love is at risk of developing alcohol-related problems.

Alcohol tolerance can be defined as the following:

  • A need for increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect
  • Diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol

Either way, it's one of the warning signs of an alcohol use disorder and it's not a sign of healthy physical function.

Myth: Alcohol Helps Me Manage My Pain

According to research, as many as 28% of people with chronic pain misuse alcohol to alleviate their symptoms. Yet if you have chronic pain, it's best to put down that drink.

While alcohol can deliver a certain amount of relief by slowing down the brain and nervous system, the amount of alcohol you'll need to drink to relieve chronic pain would probably be more than the recommended guidelines for safe alcohol consumption.

If you or someone you love is drinking daily for pain relief, you'll also likely build up a tolerance, needing more to achieve the same pain-relieving effects. In addition, mixing alcohol and painkillers is downright dangerous, with possibly fatal consequences.

Myth: Beer Is Less Intoxicating Than Other Alcoholic Beverages

The fact is that one 12-ounce can of beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or one average sized cocktail containing about 1 1/2 ounces of liquor are all equally intoxicating. Each alcoholic beverage is considered a standard drink containing about the same amount of alcohol.

Where the myth has some merit is if you were to drink 12 ounces of liquor compared to one 12-ounce can of beer. Then, yes, the 12 ounces of liquor might have you hugging a toilet bowl.

Myth: Switching Between Drinks Makes You More Drunk

There is a saying, "Beer on whiskey, mighty risky." This saying is not about how mixing drinks makes you more drunk, but a warning about how mixing different types of alcohol might make you sick to your stomach.

Similar to the expression, "Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear." Mixing drink types is usually a recipe for disaster. Your body can only process so much before it goes into preservation mode.

Yet keep in mind that drinking a lot of anything alcoholic can lead to dehydration and a nasty hangover.

Myth: Cold Showers and Hot Coffee Sober You Up

While showers, fresh air, and hot coffee might feel a little refreshing to a person who has been drinking all night, none of these things will make you sober.

It takes the body approximately one hour to eliminate the alcohol in one drink. Once absorbed into the bloodstream, alcohol gets processed by the kidneys, lungs, and liver. This is why a urine, blood, or breathalyzer test can all detect alcohol in the body.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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Article Sources
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