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Get the facts about alcohol

A row of empty red plastic cups and an empty beer bottle

March 31, 2023—There are a lot of myths and misperceptions about alcohol out there. Knowing the facts can help you understand—and avoid—some of its risks. What follows are four common questions many people have about alcohol. The answers just might surprise you.

Q: Can you be allergic to alcohol?

A: While rare, it does happen. People can also be allergic to ingredients in the alcohol, such as barley or yeast, or to added ingredients, like egg whites or preservatives. If you have food allergies, it's important to use caution—alcohol labels aren't required to list ingredients and allergens.

Some people experience symptoms as a result of alcohol intolerance. Alcohol intolerance isn't an allergy, but it can lead to symptoms such as a flushed face, stuffy nose, headache and nausea.

Q: What effect does caffeine have on alcohol?

A: Caffeine may make someone who's been drinking feel more alert, but it won't help that person sober up faster. That's because caffeine doesn't affect how the body metabolizes alcohol. In a curious twist, mixing alcohol and caffeine can actually be risky, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reason? A caffeine buzz can mask the effects of alcohol. As a result, people might drink more than they had planned to and become impaired. That could lead to alcohol harms, such as accidents and risky behaviors.

Q: Will alcohol help me sleep?

A: Alcohol may make you fall asleep more quickly, but it won't help you get a good night's rest. In fact, it can actually cause sleep troubles. For instance, alcohol can cause you to wake up later in the night. As a result, your sleep will not be restorative. Over time, relying on a nightcap can also mess with deep sleep, a sleep stage that you need to feel refreshed. The bottom line: Don't use alcohol to fall asleep. Instead, check out these tips for sleeping better.

Q: How long does alcohol stay in the system?

A: The liver processes roughly one alcoholic drink per hour. But what equals one drink of alcohol? A standard drink of alcohol is defined as:

  • 12 ounces of beer.
  • 5 ounces of wine.
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, such as whiskey, vodka and gin.

How to know when alcohol is an issue

Do you think you might have alcohol use disorder? Take our assessment. And if alcohol is causing problems in your life, tell your doctor. Help is available.


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