The Fantastic Drunken Voyage


Ever wonder about the science of intoxication? Laurel Pritchard does—a lot. The UNLV assistant professor of psychology studies behavioral neuroscience and psychopharmacology; in other words, how chemicals wreck your brain and body. She provides this blow-by-blow tracker of each drink’s effect on an average-size woman during a hypothetical night in our city’s famed bars. Cheers!

6 p.m. Arrive at the pub and order a beer. Within 10 minutes, the lining of your stomach and small intestine absorb the alcohol, increasing your blood-alcohol concentration.

6:30 p.m. Friends show up, order another round. You haven’t metabolized that first drink, which takes an hour, so your blood-alcohol concentration increases. The first step of metabolism turns alcohol into acetaldehyde, a product more toxic than alcohol.

7 p.m. Head to the restaurant, order a cocktail. Your reaction time slows, so it’s not safe to drive at this point, and alcohol’s strong diuretic effect takes hold.

8 p.m. Dinner arrives … with wine. Food slows down absorption of the alcohol to some degree, but intoxicating effects continue to build. You slur your speech and trip on your way to the bathroom.

9 p.m. Second glass of wine. Acetaldehyde is accumulating, and liquor variety is preparing your body for a headache, flushing, nausea and dizziness tomorrow.

10 p.m. Nightcap at the piano bar. You experience acute tolerance, which causes one to feel intoxicating effects more during the rise of blood-alcohol concentration than when it plateaus or falls.

11 p.m. Shots all around! Your acute tolerance is obliterated by the extremely high blood-alcohol concentration. Two shots, and you’re severely impaired.

2 a.m. Your friends shovel you into a cab. Hello, acetaldehyde! You have so much of it in your bloodstream by now, you have to vomit.

8 a.m. the next day. What have you done? Because you had so many colored liquors (which are heavier on chemicals and by-products of distillation), you’ll have a doozy of a hangover.


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