Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About Drinking, Our Safety and Our Health

Text by Dr. Nina Radcliff & Photos by K. Cecchini

Many of us will be raising our glasses to toast “new dreams, new days, new desires, and new ways” for the New Year. It is a time to reminisce about the past and hope for the future. While it is always important to moderate alcohol intake, it is especially important at this time of the year where there are more opportunities to drink. Let’s take a look at some important facts about alcohol that may help us make wise decisions.

Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About Drinking, Our Safety and Our Health

What affect does alcohol have on our bodies? It has a temporary stimulant effect where we may feel upbeat and excited. However, alcohol soon adversely affects our reaction time, inhibitions, and judgment. As more alcohol is consumed, we may see slurred speech and loss of balance. And at high levels, it can alter one’s state of being or consciousness as well as function as a depressant making a person sleepy and even pass out.

Does alcohol have calories? Alcohol is not a zero calorie drink. Approximate calorie counts are as follows: beer 150 calories; wine 125 calories; champagne 85 calories; 1.5 ounce of vodka, whiskey, rum, or gin 100 calories; martinis 125 calories; margaritas 170 calories; and pina coladas 500 calories. Additionally, because alcohol inhibits our judgment, we are more likely to choose high calorie, high fat, and high cholesterol foods.

Does alcohol have an effect on the medications I take? It has the potential to make some medications less effective, not work at all, and, even, harmful. In particular, alcohol can intensify the drowsiness caused by anti-anxiety medications, narcotics, and sleeping aids. It may even stop your breathing and become deadly! Always read warning labels and speak with your doctor or pharmacist to determine if it is safe to use alcohol with the medications and supplements that you take.

How can I speed up the clearance of alcohol? Only time can clear alcohol from our system; consuming caffeinated drinks does NOT serve as an antidote. Additionally, even after someone has their last drink, alcohol within the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream.

What are some drunk driving statistics? Every year there are over 10,000 preventable, unnecessary, tragic deaths due to drunk driving. And during the holiday season the number increases. Approximately 1200 people die during the holiday season; this equates to nearly 45 people each day. And another 25,000 people will suffer from injuries due to drunk driving.

What happens if I get a DUI? Driving under the influence carries heavy penalties including: fines, fees, and surcharges; license suspension; ignition interlock devices (a mechanism, like a breathalyzer, installed on a motor vehicle’s dashboard that prevents the ignition from starting); jail time; and community service.

Here are some tips I have gathered from events I have attended to keep the cheer while making sure guests remain safe:

Move “last call” up. When offering alcoholic beverages, serve them early and then switch to nonalcoholic as the night goes on.
• Spice it up. Nonalcoholic drinks can be fun and yummy. This allows designated drivers to tickle their palate and have a good time. Additionally, guests who are drinking can mix in tasty, festive nonalcoholic drinks to prevent getting drunk.
• Designated host. Choose a host ahead of time who will not drink. This way they can help notice if any of the guests drink too much and need to be “cut off.” They can also collect keys when guests arrive and assess their condition before returning them. By watching for changes, you can learn a lot about any guest’s level of intoxication. Examples include: being overly friendly, unfriendly, depressed, or quiet; using foul language or becoming loud; drinking faster or switching to larger or stronger drinks; or staggering, stumbling, or bumping into objects.
• Provide options. Whether you offer your guests a sleeping bag or couch to crash on overnight, arrange for a taxi, or create a designated driver system to return them home, be prepared. Having several options available makes it easier to encourage guests to do the right thing.
• Food. Foods that are high in protein remain in our stomachs longer. As a result, it can slow the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into our systems. Consider having a good variety of meats, cheese, and nuts.
• Variety. Avoid making alcohol the main focus by providing music, dancing, games, and yummy food.

What if I am attending a party? If you are going to have a drink, designate a driver or have an alternate form of transportation ahead of time. Set safe, realistic goals when it comes to how many drinks you will have, and stick to it. If you typically have one drink and that is enough, this is not the time to be an overachiever. Additionally, pace yourself by avoiding drinking too much, too early. You may miss out on the Times Square ball dropping or that special kiss.

As we celebrate the New Year, let’s make wise decisions when it comes to drinking. Afterall we have lots to do as we enter 2015 and “…open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” Happy New Years – and Best Wishes for a year filled with more of your dreams coming to life!

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Photograph by K. Cecchini

Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.