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5 Sneaky Alcohol Myths and the Truth Behind Them

If you’ve drink at all, you’ve likely heard rumors and myths about alcohol and hangovers. Let’s go beyond the myths to face facts.

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If you’ve spent any time drinking, you’ve likely heard the rumors that coffee will sober you up, or that eating a good meal can help avoid a hangover the next day, or that beer won’t get you as drunk as other types of alcohol.

But let’s be honest—there’s a decent amount of misinformation surrounding alcohol and the behaviors accompanying it. And with alcohol especially, it’s important to know the truth before engaging in potentially risky behaviors.

Here are a few of the most common alcohol-related myths that circulate, as well as the truth behind them.

Myth: Building tolerance to alcohol over time means it’s okay to drink more.

Reality: More than anything, a growing tolerance to alcohol is a sign that you should lay off the drinks, not continue to rack them up. Building a tolerance means that as your body gets acclimated to alcohol, it begins to take more and more to feel the same effects that a smaller amount once produced. As alcohol intake continues to increase, a person is at greater risk for alcohol-related health issues, such as liver disease. If you find that it is taking more and more alcohol for you to feel intoxicated, it may be time to step back and evaluate your drinking habits. You could be heading down a dangerous path.

Myth: “Liquor before beer, in the clear. Beer before liquor, never been sicker.”

Reality: You’ve likely heard this saying or something similar. If you live by this while drinking, it’s probably not doing you much good. The truth is that it doesn’t matter what kind of alcohol you drink or the order you drink it in. What matters is the amount of alcohol you take in and considerations like body mass and whether you’ve had food. According to the New York Times, this myth is likely rooted in the way the body processes alcohol, since carbonated drinks can irritate the stomach lining and lead to faster alcohol absorption rates.

Myth: Caffeine can help a person sober up faster.

Reality: Again, this is not true. That cup of coffee will do absolutely nothing to help the body process alcohol any faster. It may make you feel more alert, without actually making you any more sober. According to CNN, combining alcohol and caffeine can even be dangerous. One reason for this is that since caffeine can make a person feel more awake and alert, it may allow them to believe the illusion that they’re less intoxicated than they really are. This could lead to risky behavior, such as driving under the influence. Another risk is that if a person believes they are more sober after caffeine, they may drink more than they would in a normal situation.

Myth: Eating and drinking water before bed will help avoid a hangover the next day.

Reality: That late-night snack/water isn’t likely to do you much good. The truth is that your body has already absorbed alcohol from what you’ve had to drink, so food won’t do much to change that. In fact, according to research conducted in Canada, the only realistic way to avoid a hangover is simply to not drink. Lead study author Joris Verster tells BBC that avoiding a hangover will likely remain difficult until researchers know exactly what causes them. “Research has concluded that it’s not simply dehydration—we know the immune system is involved, but before we know what causes it, it’s very unlikely we’ll find an effective cure,” he said.

Myth: Beer won’t get you as drunk as other types of alcohol will.

Reality: A drink is a drink. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism guidelines indicate that a 12-ounce can of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, and 1.5 ounces of liquor all have the same amount of alcohol content and will lead to the same amount of intoxication. The idea behind this myth isn’t necessarily completely wrong, though. Since a can of beer contains much more liquid than a 1.5-ounce shot, people may be less likely to consume as many drinks if sticking to beer, whereas multiple shots of hard liquor can be drunk quickly. The manner in which you drink certain alcohols may also contribute to this myth. According to The Conversation, “We develop expectancies from a number of sources, including our own and others’ experiences. If wine makes you relaxed, it’s probably because you usually sip it slowly in a calm and relaxed atmosphere. If tequila makes you crazy, maybe it’s because you usually drink it in shots, which is bound to be on a wild night out.”

Why do we bother debunking these myths? Because when you’re considering whether to change your relationship to alcohol, it can be important to face the truth about your drinking. Don’t fall for clichéd lies over solid facts.

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Beth Leipholtz spent several years blogging about the realities of getting sober young on Life to be Continued. Since the birth of her son, Coop, she has pivoted to focus on her work as an inclusion and accessibility advocate who believes in creating a more accepting world for our children. She shares her parenting journey on her website Beth & Coop, as well as on TikTokYouTube, Facebook and Instagram, where she has built a community of more than 1 million people around disability inclusion. She lives with her family in Minnesota.  In addition to spending time with her family, Beth enjoys Minnesota summers, photography, iced Americanos, CrossFit, and a good old-fashioned book.

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