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Gateway: Be mindful while holiday drinking

By Vicky O. Misa | Vicky.misa@news-star.com | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star
FILE PHOTO

It's the holiday season, a time for celebration. For some that means parties, festive food and more opportunities to indulge in adult beverages than usual.

Be mindful, though. Taylor Bivings, with Gateway to Prevention and Recovery, said it's especially this time of year when people often put themselves and others at risk because they don’t really understand the affects of alcohol.

Bivings said despite the potential dangers, myths about drinking persist, which — for some — can prove fatal. Scientific studies supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provide information that challenges widespread, yet incorrect, beliefs about how quickly alcohol affects the body and how long the effects of drinking last.

Alcohol acts as a stimulant, Bivings said, so people who drink may feel upbeat and excited. But alcohol soon decreases inhibitions and judgment, and can lead to reckless decisions.

“As we consume more alcohol, reaction time suffers and behavior becomes poorly controlled and sometimes even aggressive,” Bivings said. “Continued drinking causes the slurred speech and loss of balance.”

At these levels and above, alcohol can also cause blackouts, which are when a person does not remember what happened while he or she was intoxicated.

“At higher levels, alcohol acts as a depressant, which causes the drinker to become sleepy and, in some cases, pass out,” Bivings said. “At even higher levels, drinkers face the danger of life-threatening alcohol overdose due to the suppression of vital life functions.”

Bivings said during an evening of drinking, it’s easy to misjudge how long alcohol’s effects last.

“The truth is that alcohol continues to affect the brain and body long after the last drink has been finished,” Bivings said. “Even after someone stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream, resulting in impaired judgment and coordination for hours.”

Bivings offers some tips to keep in mind when hosting a holiday gathering:

• Offer a variety of nonalcoholic drinks — water, juices, sparkling sodas. Nonalcoholic drinks help counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Also, the other fluids may slow the rate of alcohol absorption into the body and reduce the peak alcohol concentration in the blood.

• Provide a variety of healthy foods and snacks. Food can slow the absorption of alcohol and reduce the peak level of alcohol in the body by about one-third. It can also minimize stomach irritation and gastrointestinal distress the following day.

• Help your guests get home safely — use designated drivers and/or ride-shares. Anyone getting behind the wheel of a car should not have any alcohol.

• If you are a parent, understand the underage drinking laws — and set a good example.

Blood Alcohol Concentration Levels

• Mild Impairment — 0.00-0.05 percent

• Increased Impairment — 0.06-0.08 percent

• Significant Impairment — 0.09-0.15 percent

• Severe Impairment — 0.16-0.30 percent

• Life Threatening — 0.31-0.45 percent

For more information on celebrating the holidays safely and tips for cutting back, visit RethinkingDrinking.niaaa.nih.gov.

For more information on alcohol misuse prevention, contact Taylor Bivings, at tbivings@gatewaytoprevention.org or call (405) 275-3391.