Monday, October 12, 2009

Seriously, I'm not an alcoholic.

I'd just like to make it clear, since there is apparently debate over this. This blog is about booze, not about my daily life, so I really only update it when there has been some sort of event in boozing. It's a biased sample, see? I'm out of college now, I don't do the "hey let's get shitfaced" thing anymore. I didn't do it MUCH back then... though there were a few evenings spent worshiping the porcelain idol that I wish I could take back. And that one naked time, but hey, it was MayDay. NO REGRETS.

Alcohol is a poison. No, I'm not screwing with you. It is an antibiotic, and guess what? You are biotic. Congrats, you're poisoning yourself! But it's okay, right? Right. Sure. Be responsible and don't act like your trying to become the Saint of Liver Damage (hey T, how's the hangover?) and you should be fine. It is also worth knowing exactly how alcohol works in the body.

Everyone knows that alcohol is a diuretic, right? It makes you pee. That's what the whole "breaking the seal" thing is about. If you take a moment to notice you will see that you almost always pee clear after you've been drinking. Of course, after enough drinking you'll pee blood... which is actually related.

Alcohol (along with other diuretics) shut off your kidneys. The kidney is built to function like a filter: it sucks all the water out of your urine, leaving behind all the nasty metabolites and toxins you ingest throughout the day. Our kidneys are pretty good at that, but we always lose SOME water. Desert mice (Muad'dib!) have such powerfully salty kidneys that their urine is actually a solid. The more you know, right? Even without getting into the drama of kidney failure, which can happen, it means you're losing a lot of water, which gets you nasty dehydrated and gives you the headache and light sensitivity of a hangover.

The muscle fatigue and nausea portion of the hangover come from the first metabolite of alcohol: acetaldehyde (any medical student can correct my spelling, or even my entire post). Acetaldehyde is poisonous and unpleasant, and in some people it can stay in the body for hours. Do you know someone who doesn't show that they are drunk for a long while, and who tends to get hangovers BEFORE they go to bed, not the next morning? These people likely have an excess of the enzyme that breaks alcohol down into acetaldehyde. These people are also the most likely to become alcoholics, and should be the most cautious of their drinking.

Acetaldehyde stays in your system for much longer than you would like it to, but it does go away. If I recall correctly, it is metabolized into salicylic acid and peed away.

This is all recalled from memory of a class in health psychology taught by a recovered alcoholic. I *can* back up any statements with the appropriate literature, though it would take me time and effort, and if enough people bitch at me I might do it. Of course, if I find out I was wrong on any point I'd correct it.

There *are* people out there with less sensitive systems. You might be one of them. However, unless you have been tested for Extremely Awesome Liver and Kidney Function, it is not safe to assume that you are in the minority.

Everyone knows someone who fits the DSM-IV-TR's definition of alcoholism. Hell, I may very well BE that person for some of you. However, there is usually a pretty obvious distinction between enjoying drink and having an inappropriate relationship with alcohol. If you know someone who you think is developing a drinking problem, talk to them about it. Encourage them to seek help. Don't be afraid of seeming pushy or obnoxious, you might save a life.

The website for Alcoholics Anonymous is here:
For those who prefer a less religious organization, the website for Rational Recovery is here:

Drink for the joy of it, drink with friends, drink with caution and awareness.

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