Another glass of wine, or tot of rum seems like the perfect fix for a chilly winter’s evening Download the butterfly from the road. After all, alcohol warms you up, right? Not quite – its effects are quite the opposite.
Alcohol causes the blood vessels in your skin to open wider, which allows more blood to flow through them and bring more blood to the surface of your skin. That’s why you feel warmer…. initially. Unfortunately, the closer blood flows to the surface of the skin, the more heat is moved away from the centre of your body (where you really need it when it’s cold outside).
To add insult to injury, alcohol reduces your ability to shiver, which is your body’s natural way of warming up. So, although you may feel warmer, you’re actually cooling your body down!
Alcohol: the best conman
Think of alcohol as a paradox; a liquid of opposites; a perfect conman. You feel warm, but it actually makes you cold. You feel bulletproof, but let’s be honest… dancing on the table is probably never really a good idea! You feel as though you could take over the world, yet anyone who has ever been sober at a bar or party would agree: alcohol makes you anything but smart.
“But I like drinking – it makes me happy!” Another paradox! Alcohol stimulates all the feel-good centres in your brain and causes the release of dopamine, a powerful happiness hormone. But it is also a depressant, slowing down your brain: your thoughts, speech and movements (which is why you keep bumping into things). And the more you drink, the more of these effects you’ll feel.
By increasing all of these happy hormones, alcohol tricks you into thinking that it’s actually making you feel great, and so you keep drinking. At the same time, it’s changing other chemicals in your brain that – in the end – make you feel depressed.
Because of its direct effects on the brain, alcohol makes everything look and feel amazing! That includes that guy in the corner who becomes increasingly attractive as the evening goes on, and your wrong belief that “you’re fine to drive home!” – as your confidence goes up, your judgement goes down.
How to expose the conman
You don’t have to stop drinking altogether. Instead, we’d advise you to “drink responsibly”. But how?
- Know where you’re going, how you’re getting there and how you’re getting home. Nominate a driver before you go out and always save some money in case you need to get a taxi home.
- Never accept drinks from strangers (regardless of how attractive they might be looking).
- Never leave your drink unattended.
- Alternate your drinks with a glass of water. The more alcohol you drink, them more dehydrated you become (see, there’s that paradox again).
- Look out for your friends and make sure they look out for you.
Don’t be fooled by the promises that alcohol loves to sell you, remember there are always two sides to every story!