9 Myths About Alcoholism

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Cindy Kuzma on October 12, 2020
  • Alcohol Intake
    Getting to the Truth
    Some fables make for good bedtime reading. But when it comes to alcohol use and abuse, misconceptions can turn deadly. Here, find the truth behind nine commonly believed falsehoods about the use of beer, wine and liquor.
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    1. Alcohol doesn’t cause as much harm as other drugs.
    Drinking poses many health dangers. In the short term, alcohol use—especially if it’s excessive—increases your risk of accidents, injuries and violence. Over time, chronic drinking increases your risk of liver damage, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, depression, anxiety, memory loss, and even some types of cancer. For people with certain health problems—including mood disorders, osteoporosis, and diabetes—the risk is even greater.
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    2. Beer or wine is safer than liquor.
    All alcoholic beverages have similar effects on your health. One serving of beer, wine or liquor contains about the same amount of alcohol. When you first consume them, you may feel relaxed, happy, or even upbeat or excited. But keep sipping and you’ll experience the same signs of being drunk, no matter what your beverage of choice: slurred speech, loss of balance, and lack of coordination.
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    3. Caffeine will sober you up.
    It’s true that coffee or other sources of caffeine combat drowsiness. But they don’t speed the rate at which your body breaks down alcohol. Caffeinated beverages do nothing to minimize the impairments in judgment or coordination that accompany heavy drinking. For the same reason, “walking it off” or cold showers can’t make you feel more sober, either.
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    4. If you can hold your liquor, you have a lower risk of alcohol problems.
    Does it take you more drinks than your friends to feel drunk? If you answered yes, then your risk of alcohol abuse and dependence is actually higher. Chances are you drink more and more often. This means your body has developed a tolerance to alcohol. Over time, you’ll need even more drinks to produce the same effect. Meanwhile, high alcohol levels damage your organs and tissues.
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    5. One drink equals whatever I pour in my glass.
    The government defines moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. But that’s based on standard drink sizes: a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of hard liquor. Many American glasses and mixed drinks hold far more than one serving. For instance, some cocktails count as three or more standard drinks.
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    6. It’s safe to drive as long as you don’t feel drunk.
    You may not be slurring your speech or stumbling. However, alcohol almost immediately impairs the coordination you need to drive safely. And don’t think you’re safe after you stop drinking. Alcohol from your stomach and intestines continues entering your bloodstream for hours. Play it safe at parties and other gatherings by designating ahead of time a driver who won’t drink at all.
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    7. Drinking makes you more social.
    Yes, a glass of wine or a beer may cause you to shed some inhibitions. But overdoing it does you no favors on the social scene. You’re likely to act silly and say things you shouldn’t. Over time, heavy drinking can interfere with healthy relationships and also cause complications when you fail to fulfill responsibilities at school, work, or with your family.
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    8. The risk of alcohol problems decreases for older adults.
    Adults ages 65 and older tend to drink less than they did when they were younger—but 40% still imbibe. And due to changes in the way the body breaks down alcohol with age, they often feel its effects more quickly. Signs of alcohol dependence unique to older adults include depression and anxiety, poor appetite, mysterious bruises, and lack of hygiene or cleanliness.
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    9. Kids can safely drink some alcohol.
    Drinking harms children even before birth, if their moms use alcohol while pregnant. Brains and bodies then continue to develop through the teenage years. Alcohol use at this time can increase the risk of learning and behavior problems. Plus, young people who begin drinking before age 15 have five times the risk of alcohol problems when they become adults.
9 Myths About Alcoholism

About The Author

  1. Alcohol use and older adults. National Institute on Aging. http://nihseniorhealth.gov/alcoholuse/alcoholandaging/01.html.
  2. Beyond hangovers: understanding alcohol’s impact on your health. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm.
  3. Frequently asked questions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm.
  4. How alcohol affects the body. National Institute on Aging. http://nihseniorhealth.gov/alcoholuse/howalcoholaffectsthebody/01.html.
  5. If you drink. National Institute on Aging. http://nihseniorhealth.gov/alcoholuse/ifyoudrink/01.html.
  6. New year, old myths, new fatalities: alcohol-related traffic deaths jump during Christmas and New Year’s. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/RethinkHoliday/NIAAA_NYE_Fact_Sheet.htm.
  7. Q&As. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/QuestionsAnswers/default.asp.
  8. Underage drinking: myths vs. facts. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. http://store.samhsa.gov/product/Underage-Drinking-Myths-vs-Facts/SMA08-4299.
  9. What are the risks? National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/WhatsTheHarm/WhatAreTheRisks.asp.
  10. What’s a “standard” drink? National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/WhatCountsDrink/WhatsAstandardDrink.asp.
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Oct 12
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.