A good night out can live long in the memory. Time spent with good friends enjoying a few drinks is a popular way to relax and unwind. But unfortunately, many people don’t consider the full consequences that alcohol can have on them over the course of the night.
Despite the extensive media attention and the risks of DWI, some people still choose to drive home after a period of heavy drinking. You may find yourself under pressure to drink, or in the company of someone attempting to drive while drunk. In this article, we look at how alcohol can affect you and how you can plan ahead for a night out. We also examine the impacts of drinking, the alternatives, and other tips.
To better understand the impacts of alcohol on our bodies and lives, we’ve outlined some key information below:
The alcohol we drink is ethanol that comes from fermented sugars. Usually, fruits or grains are used to produce this alcohol. It acts as a depressant, which means that in small amounts it makes us more sociable and reduces anxiety. However, high quantities can result in drunkenness, unconsciousness, or even death. It has a long history in our societies and is still popular today.
Many people will be familiar with the warm fuzziness that can come from drinking alcohol. It may make you feel more confident and less uptight. However, it also has some negative impacts on your body and cognition.
Your reaction times slow when you drink, which means it takes you longer to act when presented with certain stimuli. Similarly, your comprehension and coordination are also impacted. If you’ve ever experienced the blurry or tunnel vision that comes when you drink too much, this is also the effects of alcohol. Your spatial awareness and concentration also suffer negative consequences.
You’ll likely have noticed that some people can drink a lot and not feel the effects, while others are complete ‘lightweights’ when it comes to alcohol. There are many factors that determine how you are affected when you drink. This includes:
Each of us is affected differently, which is what can make alcohol such a dangerous drug at times.
The volume of liquid in your glass isn’t always directly proportional to how strong your drink is. Even similar drinks can have different alcohol contents. For example, a regular beer has around 5% alcohol, while a lighter beer can have as little as 4.2%. Wine has about 12%, and spirits usually around 40%.
A standard drink in the US is around 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits. The total alcohol content for each of these is around 14 grams.
Taking the information above into account, beer or wine is no ‘safer’ than spirits. However, the danger comes due to the strength and small measure of spirits. The effects are the same if you drink the same amount of standard units. However, on a night out many people will drink spirits.
Because of how little volume they have, it’s easy to drink a lot of spirits in a short time. Even when mixed with soda, there’s less liquid volume than with a pint of beer. Many people also take ‘shots’. Multiple of these are equivalent to drinking multiple glasses of beer or wine. It’s for this reason that people tend to get drunk quicker when drinking spirits.
It’s essential that you plan how your evening is going to progress before you go out. This means that the vital decisions about driving, sharing a taxi, or staying over somewhere are decided ahead of time. Your most important choice is who will be your designated driver. This person must be responsible, and either not drink or stay well within the legal limit.
Below, we’ve outlined some advice for what to do if your designated driver, or a friend under the influence, decides they want to drink and drive home.
If possible, have a discussion with your friend before they start drinking to find out how they plan to get home. If they intend to drive themselves, you may want to remind them of this plan as the night unfolds. This point is especially relevant if it appears they are drinking too much.
If you suspect that your friend may drink too much and try to drive – even if they have promised otherwise – you may want to alter your drinking activities for the remainder of the night to ensure that everyone makes it home safely.
When it comes time to try and convince a friend not to drive drunk, it is important to take a non-confrontational approach to the conversation. Emotions will likely be higher, and depending on how much your friend has drunk, they may be irritable or edgy. Instead of matching those emotions, take a calm and cool stance and don’t raise your voice. You’ll be more likely to have a successful resolution.
You also need to remember that your friend is under the influence of alcohol and isn’t thinking clearly. In addition to a soft approach, you may need to speak slowly and explain your stance more than once so that they can fully understand you. While this can be a frustrating experience, try to stay collected throughout this exchange.
Make sure your friend knows that you aren’t simply trying to tell them what to do – you’re worried about them. Let the person know that you care about them and don’t want them to hurt themselves or face serious legal consequences.
If your friend seems as though they are planning to drive home, suggest that they spend the night at your house rather than try to drive drunk. Whether you have a spare bed or an unoccupied couch, by crashing at your place, your friend will be able to drink without worrying about the consequences of drunk driving. These consequences include an auto accident, injuring someone, or legal repercussions.
If your friend is insisting that they need to go home, offer them an alternative to driving. Offer to call them a cab or an Uber, or lend them money for a bus fare. If there are any sober drivers around, see if they can catch a ride with someone responsible. Also, remind them of the potential legal costs of having to hire an attorney to provide a DWI Defense, if charged with the crime.
If you don’t seem to be making any progress when attempting to convince a friend not to drive while drunk, call in some reinforcements. It will be more difficult for your friend to say “no” to multiple people.
If you have the opportunity, take your friend’s keys in order to physically prevent them from driving home. It will also be much easier to persuade them to choose another option when you hold this leverage.
If none of your previous efforts have worked, your only alternative may be to call law enforcement to intervene. If your friend hasn’t left yet, you may simply want to call the police and ask for advice – all while your friend is still in earshot. When your friend knows that the police are now aware of your friend’s attempts to get behind the wheel, they will likely change their mind about trying to drive.
If your friend did choose to drive despite your coaxing, calling the police is still your best option. Remind yourself that it is better to have your friend arrested, but safe, rather than to have them injured or even killed as a result of driving drunk.
As we mentioned above, everyone reacts to alcohol differently. That being said, there are some guidelines on what’s a ‘healthy’ or acceptable amount to drink. Healthy adults should drink in moderation, and those of legal drinking age should follow daily guidelines. These outline that one drink per day for women and two per day for men is a moderate amount of drinking.
Legally, the matter is stricter. The deciding factor is Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). Again, factors such as age, weight, and gender affect how much alcohol your body absorbs. The legal limit for driving in the US is a BAC of .08. This figure means you have .08 grams of alcohol in your body per every 100ml of blood. Your safest bet is not to drink at all if you’re the designated driver.
When you’re on a night out, it can soon become difficult to keep track of how much alcohol you’ve consumed. Whether you’re the designated driver or not, you should still make sure you don’t drink too much. Below are some signs that you might have had too many:
To find out a vague guideline on how much you can healthily intake, try using an alcohol calculator. Note that these should be used for information purposes only. You should not use them to determine whether you’re fit to drive.
Although the prospect of staying sober when everyone else is drinking isn’t always an appealing one, there are numerous benefits. If you’re the designated driver, you can rest assured that you’re helping your friends when they need you the most. Don’t be tempted to stray from your responsibilities. We’ve outlined some of the pluses of staying sober on a night out, below:
Some of the health benefits of staying sober on a night out include:
Drinking alcohol and driving is irresponsible and dangerous. You are putting yourself at risk, as well as those in the car with you, and other road users. In 2016, 28% of all traffic-related deaths were caused by alcohol-impaired drivers.
If your BAC is above 0.10, you are seven times more likely than an unimpaired driver to be involved in a fatal crash. Even if you’ve only had a couple of beers, your risk of having an accident is still increased. The only totally safe way to drive is without consuming any alcohol at all. The more you drink, the more likely you are to be involved in an accident.
There are some very serious legal implications if you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol. If your BAC is 0.08 or higher, you could be charged with a DWI/DUI. We’ll explore these terms in greater detail below, but for now here are the basics:
There are plenty of shocking statistics that demonstrate just how dangerous drinking and driving can be. Below are some of the most shocking:
When you’re on a night out, it can sometimes be difficult to tell who’s sober enough to drive and who isn’t. You therefore need to know what signs to look out for. Here are some ways you can tell if you’ve had too much to drink.
There is nothing you can do to lower your blood alcohol concentration other than wait for your body to process it. You should therefore never take the risk of driving until you’re absolutely sure you’re sober.
However, there are some ways to help you feel more alert. Again, these methods shouldn’t be used as an attempt to lower your BAC.
If you find yourself alone on a night out after consuming alcohol, there are a few steps you should take:
If you plan ahead and keep your wits about you, it’s easy to avoid driving while drunk. Here are some tips to help you:
DUI stands for driving under the influence. DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. Although on the surface these two terms seem to mean the same thing, some states treat them separately. Often, DWI is a more serious crime and suggests the driver is intoxicated to a greater degree.
In Minnesota, a DWI means that you are driving with a BAC over 0.08. A DUI denotes that you were in control of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Because of the similarity of these, the terms are often used interchangeably.
The consequences of either of these can be severe. If you’re charged with a DUI or DWI, you could face a charge of $1000 and up to 90 days behind bars if it’s your first offense. For repeat offenders, this could range up to $14,000 and seven years in jail.
If you’re concerned about the amount you’re drinking and are looking to quit, there are options available to you. You should start by making a conscious effort to drink less. Try staying sober on a night out, or limiting your intake.
If you find that you can’t cut down, you should consider perhaps having a chemical assessment done to determine if you are chemically dependent and perhaps in need of treatment.