Volume 96, Issue 82
Thursday, March 6, 2003

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What inhibitions?

By Nicole D'Cruz
Gazette Staff

Alcohol is to many university students what milk was to grade school kids. We all know milk "does a body good" and we all know the social joys of a night of drinking, but what does liquor do to your body?

When drinking, some individuals might appear hyper and energetic. But Simon Chiu, a Western psychiatry professor, said alcohol actually has the opposite effect on our bodies.

"Biologically, alcohol depresses the central nervous system. It affects our inhibitor neurotransmitters, causing us to feel relaxed and less anxious," Chiu said. Because of these results, people often lose their inhibitions and behave in ways they would not usually behave.

Social drinking, which could be viewed as drinking and maintaining a blood alcohol concentration (BAC), has more positive effects than negative.

Binge drinking, on the other hand, has many negative consequences, as it can lead to unpredictable behaviour. "Four to six drinks within a few hours is considered binge drinking," Chiu explained.

"[A hangover is an indication that] you have drank to excess," said Paul Whitehead, a Western sociology professor.

"A hangover is also a symptom of alcohol withdrawal," said Leslie Janes, a Western psychology professor. "One might feel depressed or anxious after drinking, because, while intoxicated, they experienced less anxiety and were in a good mood."

A serious symptom of alcohol withdrawal is known as delirium tremens, when one is suffering from involuntary twitches or shakes. Whitehead said this occurs because alcohol has depressed the central nervous system, slowing it down. "When alcohol begins to leave the body, a person's CNS might switch into a hyperactive state."

If you or one of your friends are vomiting to excess, Janes recommended a visit to the doctor, while noting individuals should also seek medical attention if they are experiencing heartburn or ulcer-like symptoms.

"A loss of blood might occur if one experiences any hemorrhaging along their gastro-intestinal tract," Chiu said.

The best way to avoid a hangover is to avoid alcohol. But if one plans to drink, there are a few things that should be taken into consideration. For example, consuming certain kinds of liquor may cause a less severe hangover.

"Congeners, which are non-alcoholic chemical additives found in alcohol, might increase a person's chance of getting a hangover," Janes said. "Vodka has few congeners, whereas wine or whiskey has many."

"Hangovers are a primary function of a person's BAC," she explained. "The higher the BAC, the worse the hangover."

One can control their BAC by keeping a few things in mind. When mixing alcohol with a non-alcoholic beverage, remember that carbonated beverages quicken the alcohol's absorption rate into your blood stream, increasing a person's BAC at a higher speed.

Milk "does a body good," and in some ways, so does it alcohol; however, when it comes to the latter, there are a few more consequences to consider.

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2002 THE GAZETTE