Vital Signs
10:39 am
Mon December 31, 2012

5 Ways A New Year's Cocktail Messes You Up

As we prepare to pop the cork on champagne to welcome the New Year, Bryan Wasson, an internal medicine specialist at Baylor Medical Center in Irving, breaks down the effect of alcohol on the body.

1) That festive cocktail is really a toxin

"Well, alcohol, if you look from a strictly medical standpoint, it’s considered a toxin," Wasson says. "Now, there are some data that show that alcohol could have some beneficial effects, especially with the flavonoids and antioxidant components insofar as cardiovascular health is concerned."

But Wasson says alcohol can negatively affect the brain, liver, bone marrow and  immune system. 

2) Alcohol is ninja-quick

"Alcohol, for the most part, when you first ingest alcohol about 20 percent of it can be absorbed directly from the stomach," Wasson notes.  "In fact, it goes directly through the walls and it’ll go and in fact will hit the brain in less than one or two minutes." 

Eating before celebrating with a couple of cocktails helps slow things down. 

3) Women really do feel the effects more rapidly

"There’s an enzyme system that us physicians are familiar with called alcohol dehydrogenase," Wasson explains. "In English, it helps detoxify the effects of alcohol, but it can only work at about half-an-ounce of alcohol an hour. So, if you’re drinking more than a half-an-ounce of alcohol per hour, you will soon feel the toxic effects of alcohol, which is the slowed speech, not so good coordination, etc. Also, in women, when it comes to this particular enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, they have less of it than men do.  And that’s one of the things that they see as potentially a reason why women tend to get inebriated sooner than what males do."

4) Take a drink, lose impulse control

"Impulse control is damaged by the effect of alcohol. We know it affects that area of the limbic system in the brain. Also it affects the frontal cortex at some time," the doctor says. "Now, that happens to people in general once they have had a little too much alcohol. " 

Wasson says you may think you're okay, but you're not.  Have a designated driver.

5) The ultimate hangover cure: time

"Once it’s now detoxified at this very slow rate, then the body begins to recover," he  says. "You can drink fluids, for example, to help eliminate it.  Eat nice and healthy the next day.  Drink plenty of fluids, stay well hydrated.  You may need a little Aleve, maybe a little Tylenol to help that headache, okay?  And then hopefully get on after a day or two with your routine."

Hangover Remedies From The Non-Medical Experts: Bartenders

  • Josh Jordan, City Tavern:  the "hair of the dog" -- a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey and a cold beer.
  • Enver Osmani, the Original Italian Cafe: bread, ricotta cheese and spinach.
  • Hector Sandoval, Union Park Gastro Bar: 1/2 Mexican Beer, 1/2 Bloody Mary mix; add olive, lemon and lime juice plus a dash of salt and pepper. (consider 1/2 shot of vodka, too)
  • Brian Boone, Adolphus Hotel Rodeo Bar: bitters and soda (settles the stomach)

The search for a hangover cure is ancient and varied; some are even a little wacky. And if you're hitting the bubbly, NPR's The Salt blog breaks down the science of champagne.