Beer Before Liquor?

Five truths about alcohol, its effects, and staying safe at the kegger.

Let’s be honest: Most college students drink alcohol. Don’t worry — no judgments — we get it. Without mom and dad breathing down your neck for the first time since, well … ever, you’re going to want to let loose.

Unfortunately, like anything you do for the first time, you’re going to suck at it. Virgin drinkers out for a night of heavy boozing can anticipate — at best — some embarrassment and discomfort; at worst some serious injury.

Therefore, we’re providing some good guidelines to keep your night safe and a dreadful hangover at bay. If you’re gonna drink, you might as well be smart about it.

Water — and Lots of It

The thing to understand about hangovers is they’re basically just terrible cases of dehydration. Alcohol has a nasty habit of forcing your body to expel more of its fluids than usual — in a shorter period of time. This is what leads to a fun morning of nausea topped off by a headache and serious light sensitivity.

The fix is somewhat of a no brainer: Drink water — lots of water — both before and after a night of drinking. A good rule of thumb to follow: Drink an amount of water equal to that of the alcohol you’ve consumed.

Don’t Drink on

An Empty Stomach

How quickly you become intoxicated depends on how quickly alcohol can make it into your bloodstream. For example, a Cuba Libre will get you drunk faster than a Bloody Mary, because the carbonation in the soda speeds up the absorption of the alcohol. However, no matter what you’re drinking, eating beforehand will slow this absorption rate. Starchy, carb-laden food works best since it can absorb some of the alcohol before your bloodstream will.

Gender is Important

Now, I’m as feminist as they come, but when it comes to alcohol, men and women are not created equal. Physiologically, the sexes metabolize alcohol in different ways. Women generally have a lower concentration of water in their bodies, meaning that if a guy and a gal consume the exact same number of drinks in the same period of time, her blood alcohol levels will be significantly greater than his.

Women also have less of an enzyme called dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol in the stomach. Some studies indicate that, drink for drink, women will absorb about 30 percent more booze into their bloodstream. So, ladies, don’t go challenging the dudes to any drinking competitions. They will drink your ass under the table — every time.

Size Matters

Aside from gender, body type is something to consider too. Smaller people generally have a smaller circulatory system, meaning less blood. This means blood alcohol levels will spike higher and faster than someone bulkier. So, for example, a lithe dancer will never be able to drink as much as that rubenesque bitch at the end of the hall, and so on. There is a reason, after all, that people who can’t handle much alcohol are referred to as “lightweights.”

Medical Amnesty

So, despite reading this awesome article and following all this advice, you still end up in a situation where you or a friend find yourself seriously smashed — to the point where alcohol poisoning is a concern. Many times, students risk harm or, in some cases, even death because they or their friends are too scared to seek medical attention.

What many students don’t realize is that academic institutions care much more about a student’s health than prosecuting them. Many schools across the country have instituted the policy of “medical amnesty,” which states that students are exempt from legal action against them so long as they do seek help for a drinking — or drug-related medical emergency. So, please, don’t be a dick — look out for yourself and your friends and don’t try and “sleep it off.” Unless, that is, you like the idea of choking on your own puke while you sleep, and dying. Yum.

Victoria Medina  is a freelance writer and contributor to our sister pub, the San Antonio Current. Send comments to [email protected].

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