Know when to say when this Sunday

Published 4:57 pm Saturday, February 4, 2012

QUESTION: Is it really true that Super Bowl Sunday is one of the highest days of the year for occurrences of domestic violence?

ANSWER: Yes, it is. It’s also a day when law enforcement officers are on the roads stopping a lot of alcohol impaired drivers.

There are things in our society that just seem to “go together:” salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, snow and ice and, unfortunately, the Super Bowl and drinking a lot of beer.

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Almost everyone knows that too much alcohol changes our mood, our judgment and our behaviors, too often with some very sad consequences. If we’re happy, we can get silly and careless. If we’re upset, we can get belligerent and dangerous.

If we get antagonist with words, it doesn’t take much to get violent with fists. If we get behind the steering wheel, we become a weapon on the road: The risk of being involved in an alcohol-related traffic crash increases significantly at alcohol concentration levels of above .04.

There are important facts to remember about alcohol consumption. First, the number of hours you have been drinking affects your alcohol concentration level. Unless you drink less than one standard drink per hour, your alcohol concentration level will continue to increase over time.

The body slowly eliminates the alcohol as follows: oxidation by the liver (95 percent), breath (2 percent), urine (2 percent) and perspiration (1 percent). The liver’s rate of oxidation is constant and cannot be increased by drinking coffee, physical activity or cold showers.

Drinking on an empty stomach can have a greater effect on judgment and behavior than expected. At the same time, although a full stomach will slow down the absorption of alcohol, it is much less important than most people believe.

Age is rarely considered in a discussion of alcohol concentration levels, but it’s important because the body becomes less tolerant with aging. The metabolic rate is slowing down and the ratio of body fat to muscle increases with age. Fat has a smaller blood supply than muscle, so more of the alcohol goes into the bloodstream the more fatty tissue we have.

It doesn’t matter what kind of alcohol you drink — what counts is how much. A 5 oz. glass of wine, a mixed drink with 1 ½ oz. of vodka, a 9 oz. wine cooler and a 12 oz. beer all contain the same amount of alcohol. Mixed drinks often contain more than 1 ½ oz of alcohol.

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