Make no mistake: It’s easier than you think to blow .08

Almost all of us agree that drinking and driving is a bad idea. Yet one in six of us still do it. That’s one reason you see these signs around Oregon: “Buzzed driving is drunk driving.”

These signs aim at busting the myth that “buzzed” is different from “drunk.” If you’re behind the wheel, the law says there’s no difference. It’s a matter of awareness.

During April, Alcohol Awareness Month, let’s bust a few more myths.

I drive just fine after a drink or two.

That’s the alcohol talking. It gives you a false sense of confidence. Your speed and depth perception are affected with the first drink, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). At the second drink, your thinking abilities are impaired. Not a great combination for driving, or anything else.

What qualifies as a drink?

  • One 12-ounce serving of beer (Craft microbrews often have higher alcohol content, and if you’re drinking pints, that’s an even bigger serving.)
  • One 5-ounce glass of wine (a typical restaurant serving)
  • One shot of hard liquor (Cocktails may have more than one shot.)

Men are impaired after two to three drinks in an hour, according to the NTSB. For women, it’s one to two drinks an hour.

If I stick to one drink an hour, I can drive home.

The rule of thumb is that your liver processes about one drink an hour. But that doesn’t mean the alcohol is all gone. It stays in your blood for two to three hours. So if you take one drink an hour for several hours, you might not feel buzzed but you still have alcohol in your system. And that can impair you or show up on a breathalyzer.

Coffee or a cold shower will help sober me up.

Nope. Nothing you can do will speed up your liver, which breaks down the alcohol.

 I just need to build up my tolerance.

Even if you get used to drinking more, you’re still impaired. And your blood alcohol level doesn’t care what you feel, it can still get you in trouble. Plus, increased tolerance is a key sign of potential alcohol abuse or addiction. It’s not a good thing.

Driving and drinking are a big concern, but not the only one. Alcohol – and mistaken ideas about it – can give people a false sense of how it affects their lives.

If you know someone who may have difficulty with alcohol, share your concern. Alcohol abuse or addiction is a medical condition, something to be treated, not hidden.

Many health insurers, like the Oregon Health Plan, cover treatment for alcohol and other substance abuse conditions. It’s a matter of health – and awareness.  

  • Community resources: 211info.org helps you find nearby group support and meetings. For screening and treatment, check with your provider or health plan.
  • Recognizing alcohol issues

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