Myths & Facts About Alcohol


  • Alcohol, in chemical terms, contains a hydroxyl (hydrogen and oxygen) group attached to a saturated carbon atom. Therefore any compound that combines hydrogen, oxygen and carbon atoms together to form molecules are members of the alcohol family of chemicals.
  • There are various kinds of alcohol, but only ethyl can be taken with safety.
  • Ethyl alcohol derived from the fermentation of grapes or other sugar containing liquid. The enzymes created by yeast cells convert the sugar in the grape juice into alcohol as well as into carbon dioxide.
  • Ethanol is the only alcohol that is safe to drink till today. To the layman, the term: ‘alcohol’ is widely used rather than the chemist term ethyl alcohol or ethanol.
  • Pure alcohol is colourless and will ignite at -12oC.
  • Ethyl alcohol or Ethanol is potable, clear, colourless with an ethereal odour and a warm, burning, slightly sweet taste. It is a volatile, flammable substance that burns with a blue flame and is also hygroscopic (water-absorbing).
  • It is completely mixable with water in any proportion.
  • It vapourises at 78.3oC and freezes at -113oC.
  • Alcohol should be consumed in moderate quantity. It has a pleasing and soporific (sleep-inducing) effect. It is this ability to allow its consumer to loosen their inhibitions and relax that made alcohol prized and sought after.
  • Continuous and repeated excessive consumption can lead to alcohol dependency. This can also cause damage to the liver.

Dispelling Myths About Alcohol

  • Alcohol is not a stimulant.
  • Alcohol does not have nutritional value.
  • It is not possible to prevent symptoms of a hangover e.g. by eating fats or taking massive doses of vitamins before heavy drinking.
  • Drinking large quantities of black coffee or taking a cold shower cannot counteract the effects of alcohol.
  • Straight whiskey will not affect a person more rapidly than a whiskey and soda.
  • It’s not a sign of maturity to be able to hold your liquor.

How Alcohol Affects A Person

  • Alcohol takes as little time as three minutes after it has been swallowed to reach the brain. The exact amount of time varies among individuals.
  • When alcoholic beverage is consumed, a small portion of the pure alcohol is absorbed directly and immediately into the bloodstream through the stomach walls.
  • The rest of the alcohol is processed at a slightly slower rate through the small intestine and into the bloodstream.
  • The alcohol-laden blood is pumped through the body by the heart where it eventually transports the alcohol to the liver which oxidises and breaks down the alcohol. 90 to 98 % of all alcohol ingested will be oxidised by the liver into water and carbon dioxide. The rest of the 2 to 8% of alcohol is excreted through our breath, urine, saliva, tears.
  • The liver of a male is capable of breaking down the equivalent of one standard drink per hour or 80 grams of pure alcohol in 24 hours while the liver of a female is only half as efficient.
  • As a guide to the amount of drinks one consumes within safety limit, listed are the alcohol strength of principal drinks:
  • Beer 4% to 11% alcohol by volume
    Wine (Red, White, Rose, Sparkling 7% to 14% alcohol by volume
    Fortified Wines 18% to 21% alcohol by volume
    Vermouth 16% to 20% alcohol by volume
    Brandy 40% alcohol by volume
    Whisky, Gin, Rum, Vodka 44% to 45% alcohol by volume
    Liqueurs (varies from very low to very high) 11% to 45% alcohol by volume


The hangover is a symptom that results from having consumed too much alcoholic beverages.

Hangover causes the body to suffer the following conditions:

    • dehydration
    • low blood sugar
    • irritation of the stomach lining

The dehydration is caused by the diuretic action of the alcohol. At the same time, the body’s natural anti-diuretic hormones are suppressed. This causes the body to lose more water that it otherwise would.

Besides making the person feel thirsty, dehydration also causes headaches. Combined with the effects of the toxin-like congeners, the effects are very acute and intense headaches occur. The person also becomes very sensitive to light and prefers the dark.

Alcohol causes the body to produce insulin which burns up the blood sugar. This results in low blood sugar which shows up as drowsiness, faintness and hunger which manifest itself as shivering.

‘Cure’ for Hangovers

Alcohol causes the body to produce insulin which burns up the blood sugar. This results in low blood sugar which shows up as drowsiness, faintness and hunger which manifest itself as shivering.

However, we can ease the uncomfortable and painful symptoms associated with a hangover. The following actions can ease and give comfort:

    • drink lots of water
    • consume glucose dissolved in the water
    • take small doses of vitamin B and C
    • use mild analgesics like paracetamol

Rehydrating the body cells and organs allows the natural healing process to occur while glucose helps the body absorb the water faster as well as replenish the blood sugar.

Vitamin B and C generally helps the liver and the body’s nervous system cope with the symptoms while pain killers (analgesics) such as paracetamol (sold commercially as Panadol) help deal with the general pain and headaches.

One of the best things to do if a person has had too much alcohol is to drinks lots of water with some glucose and vitamin B and C before retiring to bed to rest. Orange juice is a handy and easily available mixture of water, glucose and vitamin C.

Taking paracetamol is not recommended unless necessary or until the symptoms manifest themselves and aspirins are not recommended as they are acidic in nature and may only irritate the upset stomach further.

Serving Alcohol With Care

You may be aware that in most countries it is illegal to serve alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person. Know your country’s legal limits for B.A.C.

Definition of an intoxicated person is in terms of their blood-alcohol-concentration.

Some experienced bartenders have developed a sense of awareness of when a guest is becoming intoxicated by judging the changes in their behaviours.

As alcohol causes dehydration. An intoxicated person is very likely to demand for more drinks. You should cut off serving alcoholic beverages but instead should offer non-alcoholic beverages.

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