Forgotten Drugs 11/30/19

Opinion by Richard Bleil

The year was 1979. I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree and living in a dorm. Down the hall, one of my fellow students had obtained a bottle of whiskey and was drinking it with his girlfriend. Until he began to spit up blood.

Every few years, it seems as though there’s another story of a student that dies with alcohol poisoning. I don’t know if my classmate made it or not, but I can tell you that I never saw him again.

We forget that alcohol is a toxin. It’s poison, plain and simple, and when we’re drunk it’s because our body is shutting down and preparing to die.

I’m not saying don’t drink. It’s not my place. But I want my readers to understand how to avoid alcohol poisoning. Everybody knows not to drink and drive by now (I hope), but for some reason, we forget to educate our children about the toxicity of alcohol.

See, if you are drinking beer, the alcohol levels are low enough that your body has time to shut down. When you get too excessively drunk, you pass out which is your body’s way of getting you to stop drinking and stop poisoning yourself. Hard liquor is a different story.

See, if you’re drinking hard liquor (fortified wine, whiskey, vodka and so forth) then your body doesn’t have the time it needs to absorb all of the alcohol before shutting down. Alcohol is the only chemical that absorbs directly through the lining of the stomach (outside of water), but with hard liquor there is still alcohol in your stomach by the time you pass out, and this alcohol continues to absorb into your blood stream after you pass out. As this happens, your blood alcohol continues to rise after you black out, and if it gets too high, then, well, then you don’t wake up again.

There’s a truly stupid game many young people play at their twenty-first birthday; one shot for one year. This causes major blood alcohol poisoning problems. To avoid these problems, either drink a beer chaser or, better still, a glass of water after each shot. This will slow you down, and dilute the alcohol in your stomach, giving your body time to shut down before there is too much in alcohol in your stomach.

By the way, one of the causes of hangovers is dehydration. Drinking a glass of water after each alcoholic beverage (beer, glass of wine, shot…) will help alleviate the symptoms of a hangover the next day.

Which reminds me, if you are going to drink heavily, be sure that you are with a good friend that you trust completely to keep an eye on you and be sure that you make it home safely. Although it shouldn’t have to be said, this is especially true for women. This war on women needs to end, but it is raging even as you read this, so please be careful. Be sure your friend gets you home and keeps the sharks away when you lose control.

Speaking of drugs, we also tend to take caffeine for granted. Caffeine is a drug that attacks the central nervous system. It’s a beautiful crystal, by the way, and common in many chemical lab inventories. You could put it in a shaker at home; salt, pepper, caffeine. But it can be lethal at less than ten grams, which is why it’s not available in its pure form. The thought of straight caffeine is appealing for many coffee drinkers, but it’s actually quite dangerous.

We’re used to caffeine here in America. It’s everywhere people chug coffee to wake up in the morning. I myself drink pop for the same reason, or tea, or…well, these days, you can even get caffeine pills and caffeinated water. About fifteen years ago I had a student from South Africa. As a culture, they avoid stimulants and he had never had caffeine in his entire life. One night, about midnight, he called me. His “friends” had convinced him to chug not one, not two, but three Red Bulls in rapid succession. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, and feared he might have a heart attack, which, frankly, he could have.

The odds of drinking enough caffeinated beverages to cause significant harm is fairly low. As a culture, our metabolism is very used to caffeine. None the less, we need to be aware of its danger. It should not be given to infants and toddlers, except maybe in very small doses (a “sip” of daddy’s pop, for example). What’s more, if you’re very dehydrated, or have been sick recently, it’s best to avoid caffeine.

Nicotine, headache medication, heck, even antacids are drugs. Don’t be paranoid; that’s not the point, but, be aware. Be safe. Remember, somebody loves you, but I have no idea why.

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