The holidays are no time to overindulge
As the holiday season approaches, many people feel the urge to perhaps eat or drink more than they usually do.
Excessive eating only affects the person doing the eating. Its results can usually be rectified afterwards with a stiff regiment of exercising.
However excessive drinking can affect not only the drinker, but anyone around them, especially in the case of someone driving while under the influence.
People drink for a variety of reasons. Some drink because they say it makes them feel good. They get a “buzz” from it. These people also think that they can enhance that pleasurable feeling by having a few more drinks.
That last statement is not accurate. The effects of alcohol are biphasic (two-phased). There is an initial pleasant feeling for most people when they’ve had two or three drinks in a given time period. They often say they are relaxed, happy and talkative.
When the amount and duration of drinking increases, a person enters the next phase in which the effects of alcohol become more negative. That person may experience impairments in speech, balance, vision and reaction time.
The range and intensity of the negative effects increases with each drink.
From a physical standpoint, excessive drinking of alcohol affects your judgment and destroys your liver. We’ve always known that and have forever preached it.
But, from a collateral standpoint driving under the influence can cause injury and death to the driver as well as to others.
The amount of alcohol in your system is commonly referred to as blood alcohol content.
BAC refers to the milligrams of alcohol per 100 milligrams of blood. It is usually expressed as a decimal. For example, 0.10 is 1 part alcohol for every 1,000 parts blood.
A truly accurate BAC can only be determined by drawing a sample of blood.
Since that method is not always practical, the better way to determine an estimated BAC is by using a breathalyzer. This device takes a sample of the alveolar air which is deep in your lungs.
When consumed, alcohol is immediately absorbed into the blood capillary structure of each successive body tissue and organ it is directly exposed to.
Alcohol’s rapid rate of absorption begins in the soft tissues of the mouth, continues through the esophagus, into the stomach and finally, the small intestine.
Alcohol is somewhat unique in that as it enters the blood stream, its chemical structure is not metabolized but remains unaltered and intact. Consequently, alcohol becomes a separate and definable component of blood flow. As blood flows into and through the alveoli (air sacs) in the membranes of the lungs, carbon dioxide molecules are exchanged for oxygen molecules.
Because alcohol will readily evaporate from a solution and is highly volatile, alcohol molecules are released with the carbon dioxide molecules during this gas exchange.
Therefore the concentration of alcohol molecules in the alveolar air of expelled breath is related to the concentration of the alcohol in the blood. As the alcohol in the alveolar air is exhaled, it can be detected by a breathalyzer.
If breathalyzer test results in a BAC of .08 or above and you have been driving you will be ticketed.
So, how many drinks does it take to get to get to that level?
That depends on a variety of factors including your gender, weight, metabolism, what you’ve had to eat; how much sleep you have had, what medications you are taking and, most importantly, the actual alcohol content of your chosen “drink.”
An average male who weighs 175 pounds and who consumes four drinks over a 1.5 hour period can be at the 0.08 level.
You may say that the difference between three and four drinks can be one drink too many. And that may be the case in this example.
But to some people one drink may be one too many. These people are those who have become dependent on alcohol and are commonly referred to as alcoholics.
Alcoholism is a disease that some say is genetic and others say may be brought on by a person’s environment. In any event, it presently can be treated, but can not yet be cured.
Some people can consume three or four drinks in a given period of time and not feel the effects of alcohol. That’s because they have built up a tolerance to alcohol.
Tolerance is a sign that your liver is working overtime to break down the alcohol. This increases liver activity and, over time, will damage the liver.
We can live without some organs (ie. appendix, one lung or one kidney vs. two) but you can’t live without your liver.
Your liver performs a variety of functions necessary for life.
It produces and secretes bile which aids in the absorption of fats. It detoxifies toxic compounds such as ammonia, to make them less harmful. It also maintains your blood glucose levels. It removes excess glucose from the blood and converts it into glycogen for storage. Glucose is a simple sugar that provides us with energy. Glycogen is animal starch that is stored and used by the body when glucose levels decline.
Tolerance to alcohol also can indicate that you have moved beyond being a social drinker and may be developing a more serious problem with alcohol.
There are several strategies to avoid excessive drinking. But an absolute way you can avoid getting a ticket for driving under the influence of alcohol is total abstinence.
Because you may not know when that next drink will be one too many.
Lou Lombardo is a New York State Licensed Massage Therapist, nationally certified and certified in orthopedic massage. He is an approved provider for continuing education courses through the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. For questions, comments or more information you can contact him at (585) 734-2200 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.