PhotoFor many, getting into the holiday spirit also involves getting into other kinds of spirits. At parties and other holiday gatherings, alcohol is often at the forefront of the celebration. Sadly though, more people are likely to drink beyond their limits during this season than at any other time of the year.

The adverse consequences of overdoing it during an evening of celebratory drinking are serious, ranging from falls to car accidents. Understanding your limits also means understanding some common drinking myths.

Scientific studies supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provide important information that challenges these widespread – yet incorrect – beliefs about how quickly alcohol affects the body and how long the effects of drinking last.

The stages

Long before a person shows physical signs of intoxication, critical decision-making abilities and driving-related skills are already diminished. Initially, alcohol acts as a stimulant, which may cause a person to feel upbeat and excited.

Soon, however, inhibitions decrease, which can lead to reckless decisions. For some, this could be the, “I Should Probably Do Karaoke Now” phase. In others, aggression may begin to show, leading to fights and other types of violence.

At higher levels, alcohol acts as a depressant which causes the drinker to become sleepy or even pass out. And at very high levels, drinkers face the danger of life-threatening alcohol poisoning due to the suppression of vital life functions.

As the party wraps up

Many think that when they stop drinking, they'll begin to sober up – but this is a myth. Swapping the champagne flute for a coffee cup does not mean you'll be sober enough to drive. Caffeine may help with drowsiness, but not with the effects of alcohol on decision-making or coordination.

The truth is that the alcohol in the stomach and intestines will continue to enter the bloodstream, impairing judgment and coordination for hours. Only time will allow for the alcohol to metabolize.

Because everyone is different, it is difficult to give specific advice about drinking. But here are a few tips to keep in mind if you plan on drinking at your next holiday shindig:

  • Pace yourself. Know what constitutes a standard drink and have no more than one per hour (and no more than four drinks for men or three for women per day).
  • Make every other drink a nonalcoholic one. There's no way to speed up the brain's recovery when you are drinking too much too fast.
  • Make plans to get home safely. Remember, a designated driver isn't just the person who drank the least– it's someone who hasn't had any alcohol (which may, in some cases, be an Uber driver).

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