Mar 192002
Authors: Natillia Peters

Alcohol affects both the body and the brain when consumed in large amounts. Although the amount of alcohol a person can consume varies depending on their height and weight, most people are not familiar with how much they can drink before the alcohol begins to take effect on their body.

Over 40 percent of all traffic deaths are related to alcohol. Drinking any amount of alcohol affects your ability to drive safely. Although people know the consequences of being alcohol-mpaired, many continue to get behind the wheel after drinking.

“People underestimate their level of intoxication, but overestimate their ability to drive when they are under the influence of alcohol,” said Pam McCracken, a Hartshorn Health center Drug and Alcohol educator.

Some people can be at the (legal) limit after two 12 oz. beers, said Lindsey Price, a coordinator for the Reduce Intoxicated Driving program.

After drinking, people usually become talkative at first and then feelings are usually replaced by drowsiness as the alcohol is eliminated from the body. The drinker may become withdrawn. This pattern often encourages people to drink more to keep the buzz going.

The effect of alcohol depends greatly on the dosage of ethanol in the beverage. With up to 100mg of ethanol, the person can become happy, talkative and boastful. After 100mg to 300mg of ethanol, speech becomes slurred, walking becomes staggered and nausea with vomiting can occur. At 400mg to 900mg of ethanol, the influenced person can become comatose and death is a strong possibility.

“Large consumption of alcohol keeps the brain from working the way it should and in overdose, it keeps the body from functioning, which is why people can die from drinking,” said James Weber, a Hartshorn Health center Drug and Alcohol educator.

“The brain function becomes more limited as a person drinks, causing them to lose coordination, sensory perception and motor control,” Weber said.

The effect of alcohol also has plenty to do with the rate of drinking per hour and the strength of the drinks. When planning ahead for drinking, there should always be a designated driver present.

“The designated driver should be completely sober, not having even a few drinks,” McCracken said.

Planning ahead is key to a sober ride home, Price said. Leaving the decision until the end of the night after everyone has been out partying should be avoided, she said.

Most popular bars and clubs in Fort Collins participate in the SmartRide program to encourage sober driving. They offer free soft drinks for the designated driver all night, and food vouchers or cover charge discounts that can be redeemed at the next visit.

To participate, just tell the server or bartender you are the sober driver for the night.

If all else fails and no one in the group should drive, there are options available other than the least drunk person driving home.

Transfort busses run to Old Town on routes 61, 62, and 63 Friday and Saturday nights until 2:45 a.m. and Sunday through Thursday until 12:36 a.m.

Taxis are always another easy option. Try keeping a taxi service phone number handy in your wallet or purse, just in case. n

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