Think before You Drink: Diet Mixers May Increase BAC

The holidays are a time of indulgence and decadence, and for those who drink alcohol, there is no shortage of cocktails dedicated to celebrating the holiday. In an effort to keep calorie counts low to accommodate all the holiday cookies and other seasonal treats, many opt to mix their liquor of choice with a diet soda, thinking it the “healthy” choice.

The bad news is, however, that you may be taking unwanted risks by drinking diet drinks with your alcohol. A new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that mixing these two substances may lead to a higher breath alcohol content as compared to those who drank their alcoholic beverages with a regular soda mixer.

The study included 20 participants between the ages of 21 and 30, 10 men and 10 women, according to Reuters. Over the course of five sessions, participants drank five mixed-drink combinations with different amounts of vodka mixed with either regular or diet soda. Over three hours, researchers measured the breath alcohol levels of the participants. They found that low amounts of alcohol mixed with diet soda yielded breath alcohol levels that were 22 percent higher than the participants who drank low amounts of alcohol mixed with regular soda. With higher levels of alcohol, the participants who had diet mixers had breath alcohol levels that were 25 percent higher than those who had regular soda mixers. There were no variances based on gender, but researchers noted that the findings may be of high importance for young women who may be more likely than their male counterparts to choose a diet mixer.

Researchers believe that the reason for this difference is that sugar slows down the processing of alcohol, making it take longer for it to enter the small intestine, where it is absorbed. When sugar is not present, alcohol takes effect more rapidly.

Paying Attention to the Details

Too often, people tend to manage their drinking by the number of times they go back to the bar and get a new drink rather than considering the amount of alcohol in each beverage or the alcohol content by volume of the drink. The effect of alcohol on the brain doesn’t make the process of being present and paying attention any easier. A glass of wine that is repeatedly refilled before it is empty does not equal one drink. A cocktail that combines two shots of liquor and a dash of three liqueurs is not a single alcoholic beverage either.

In addition to considering the impact of diet soda mixers on how alcohol is processed by the body, it’s important to consider too the number of drinks ingested in a single session. In light of that information, take precautions to ensure safety at all turns – for example, never get behind the wheel of a car if you’ve been drinking and never take a ride from someone who is under the influence of alcohol or any other substance.

Do You Need to Make a Change?

Sometimes, heavy drinking at the holidays isn’t an exception to the rule but the new norm and just one more reason to binge drink. This can become readily apparent during the holiday season. With plenty of friends and family around to take notice, it can lead to getting help for an alcohol use disorder.

Do you think that a change may be warranted in your drinking choices? No one knows better than you. Take a moment and honestly answer the following questions:

  • Do you binge drink frequently (e.g., drink more than four drinks in a two-hour period for women or more than five drinks for men)?
  • Do you struggle with physical illness frequently due to your drinking or while recovering from drinking?
  • Do you use alcohol to make you feel better when you are upset, anxious, angry, or bored?
  • Do you have a mental health disorder (e.g., depression, anxiety or panic disorder, mood disorder, personality disorder, etc.)?
  • Are you pregnant or taking medications that are impacted by alcohol use?
  • Do you ever lie about drinking or about how much or how frequently you drink?
  • Have you ever gotten behind the wheel after drinking?
  • Do you often promise yourself that you will have “just one” but end up binge drinking every time?
  • Have you ever tried to quit for any length of time but but continually found yourself drinking again – and heavily?
  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms (e.g., shakiness, agitation, headaches, etc.) when you are without alcohol for any period of time?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions and you are still unable to quit drinking, it might be time to seek treatment services that will help you get a handle on life from a sober perspective and stop the harm done due to heavy and chronic drinking.

Create a Better New Year

Right around the corner is 2016. This new year could be the best year yet for you and your family. If you or someone you love is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, there is no better way to start the year off right than to enroll in a treatment program that will provide support, education, guidance, and healthy coping mechanisms for a new life in recovery.

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