Drinking and Driving? This is How it Affects Your Body

Even a moderate amount of alcohol (30g of alcohol a day) produces a range of negative short-term effects on the body

Published16 Aug 2019, 07:04 AM IST
Life Hacks
3 min read

Combine a long weekend with a festival and it’s a perfect recipe for too much revelry - parties, binge drinking, and drinking and driving. But the risks of guzzling too much of your favourite tipple are very real.

Drinking more than 3 or 4 units of alcohol a day increases health risks substantially. (One unit contains 8g or 10ml of alcohol and is equivalent to: ½ pint ordinary beer, lager or cider; 1 single measure of spirits; 1 small glass of wine; or 1 measure of whisky)

But even a moderate amount of alcohol (30g of alcohol a day, or the equivalent of 3–4 glasses of wine) produces a range of negative short-term effects on the body.

Increase in heart rate, heart palpitations, increase in skin temperature, muscle weakness and facial flushing, and water loss from the kidneys (leading to dehydration). Mental function is, of course, also inhibited.

So if you drink and drive you are obviously put-ting yourself at huge risk.

How much alcohol is too much alcohol?
How much alcohol is too much alcohol?
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Driving involves multiple tasks, the demands of which can change continuously. To drive safely, one must stay alert, make quick decisions, and execute manoeuvres based on these decisions. Drinking alcohol impairs a wide range of skills necessary for carrying out these tasks. When you are drunk, your muscle coordination goes haywire - affecting balance, speech, vision, reaction time and hearing – and one finds it more difficult to detect danger, and exhibit self-control. Plus, there is slow reaction time that could prove fatal in an emergency driving situation. That's why it is not a good idea to drive no matter how much or how little that you have had to drink.

Besides increase in the likelihood of having a driving accident, alcohol increases cheerfulness and loosens inhibitions and leads to slurring of speech and a tendency to be quarrelsome.

All these effects persist until all the alcohol has been metabolised by the liver, or processed and eliminated from the body. Which takes time.

If these reasons are not enough, there’s another reason for not drinking and driving. Vehicle crash victims who have alcohol in their systems at the time of the crash suffer worse injuries, and are more likely to sustain a severe injury, than those who haven't been drinking. Alcohol increases our body’s vulnerability to injury.

Alcohol and Medicines

Combining certain medications with alcohol increases crash risk. Alcohol affects liver, so all the drugs which need liver to metabolise (which are many- lots of antibiotics, antifungals etc) can cause severe problems. Sedatives and tranquillisers form a cocktail with alcohol and a person can go into severe respiratory distress and lead to blood toxicity. Always check with your doctor about the medicines that you are taking if you intend to drink.

Also if you are trying to treat your hangover headache with aspirin or other painkillers, beware the combination can cause severe acidity and even peptic ulcers over time. So wait till the morning to down a painkiller and always have something to eat before you take them.

Stay Safe!

  • Don't drink and drive. If you have had a few drinks it is best to call for a cab or ask some one who is sober to drive you home.
  • Don't ride with anyone who has too much to drink. Remember passengers get harmed too!
  • Don’t get fooled by ‘its just beer!’ When it comes to alcohol, a drink is a drink is a drink, and are all the same to a breathalyser.
  • Follow the concept of a designated driver. A designated driver is a predetermined person who either is a non drinker or decides to ab-stain from drinks for that day.
  • Consider taking turns being the designated driver (Look after your friends and family and they can look after you).

Understanding Blood Alcohol Content

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is the amount of alcohol in your blood stream and is calculated in milligrams of alcohol per hundred millilitres of blood or milligram percent. In India it is reported as grams of alcohol per litre. There are calculators available online.

Alcohol content in the blood is usually measured by blood levels, but for convenience the instrument Breathalyser is also used. Don’t be fooled into thinking that by using substances like breath mints, breath spray, mouth-wash and onions you can fool the machine to show lower BAC. This doesn’t work.

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