Alcohol myth buster

There are so many stories around alcohol and drinking that it’s hard to know what to believe. Being informed about the facts is the best way to make sure that you drink safely.


Do you know the facts?


1) Women are affected by alcohol to the same degree as men.

FALSE: Men have a higher average total body water content than women (62% compared to 52%), meaning men are better able to dilute alcohol than women. Other factors have also been reported that can make women more sensitive to alcohol, such as enzyme differences. All these factors mean that women are more at risk than men from the same level of drinking.

2) Drinking water can lesson the effects of a hangover.

TRUE: While food and water may ease some of the symptoms, they won't cure a hangover. The best way to avoid one is to moderate your drinking and have water between alcoholic drinks. Remember that water won't make you any less drunk or protect your liver.

3) A cold shower, fresh air or hot coffee will sober someone up.

FALSE: You might feel less sleepy, but only time will get alcohol out of your body. Depending on your weight, it takes about one hour to process one unit of alcohol.

4) Alcohol is fattening.

TRUE: There can be almost 200 calories in a large glass of red wine. And any sugar in mixers or cocktails comes on top of the alcohol content of the spirits. Alcohol also reduces our self-control, making it easy to eat too much.

5) Alcohol is a stimulant.

FALSE: Alcohol is actually a depressant.  Initially, you may feel more energetic or cheerful because alcohol depresses your inhibitions. However, that means you can also be less able to control your emotions or reactions.

6) Beer gets you less drunk.

FALSE: An average pint of beer (ABV 5%), large glass of wine (250ml, ABV 11%) or a ‘large’ double vodka (70ml, ABV 38 to 40%) all have around 2.8 units of alcohol. This is what makes you drunk chemically, and the faster you drink the full 2.8 units, the higher your peak blood level. But there are a wide range of factors that can affect how drunk you feel including your expectations.

7) Lining your stomach with a big meal before drink can help to reduce the risk of getting drunk.

FALSE: Drinking on a full stomach before you go out will delay alcohol getting into your system, not prevent it. A meal will only delay the rate of alcohol absorption, but if you go on to drink heavily you will get drunk. However, it's still best to eat a proper meal before a night out, especially foods rich in carbohydrates and proteins.

8) Switching between beer, wine, and spirits will make you more drunk.

FALSE: Your blood alcohol content is what determines how drunk you are. Mixing drinks may make you sicker by upsetting your stomach, but not more intoxicated.

9) Your body develops a tolerance to alcohol, so you can safely drink more.

FALSE: The more you drink the more damage your body will sustain and the greater the risks become. Tolerance can actually be seen as a warning sign that your body has started to be affected by alcohol.

10) Drinking more than a glass of wine a day may reduce your chances of getting pregnant.

TRUE: Women who drink a lot find it more difficult to conceive. A study reported by the British Medical Journal found that as few as five drinks every week may decrease a woman's chance of becoming pregnant. If you want to conceive, it's probably best to avoid alcohol completely.

11) White wine is a good choice for a person who wants a light drink with less alcohol.

FALSE: A glass of white or red wine, a bottle of beer and a shot of whiskey or other distilled spirits can all contain equivalent amounts of alcohol, depending on actual drink size and strength and will give similar readings on a breathalyzer.

12) Drinking too much alcohol can reduce male fertility.

TRUE: Alcohol decreases fertility by its effect on sperm quality and quantity. Men trying for a family may want to consider reducing their overall alcohol consumption.

NHS Choices 2011