Do Different Types of Alcohol Make You Behave Poorly?

March 10th 2016

Everyone has a party drink of choice along with a booze that they absolutely steer clear of. While many people believe they can't stomach a certain alcohol because it makes them behave poorly, it turns out there isn't much scientific evidence to support that claim.

There's Only One Thing That Gets You Drunk

No matter what kind of liquor you're drinking, whether it's tequila or beer, ethyl alcohol is the culprit of your buzz. Different beverages do contain different amounts of ethyl alcohol — around six percent in a beer and 40 percent in most liquors — but the total amount you end up consuming defines how drunk you get, which affects how you behave. Since liquor is stronger, you don't have to drink as much volume to get drunk: A 1.5 ounce shot of a 40 percent liquor is about the same as drinking a 12-ounce beer.

If you drink the same amount of two different alcohols that are of the same strength "the overall intoxicating effects of the alcohol in the drinks will be similar," Dr. Rueben Gonzales, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Texas, Austin, told ATTN:. "The other ingredients in the drink will affect taste and palatability, and there will be individual differences in how people perceive, enjoy or are repulsed by the taste." So, two shots of vodka and two shots of whiskey (provided they are both 40 percent) will have the same physical effects, in general.

It is true that different alcohols can give people varying degrees of a hangover the following day, and that's usually blamed on the congeners in the liquor. Congeners are byproducts produced during the fermentation of alcohol.

Brandy, port and some wines contain a congener called methanol, which can be very harmful to the body in high doses. "Methanol is metabolized in the body to formaldehyde, which is extremely toxic," Gonzales said.

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Here's What Impacts How You Drink

Believe it or not, mixers play a big role in how drunk or hungover you get. Maybe you put Coke in your rum drink or load up on cranberry juice in your vodka, but people also tend to drink more carelessly when the beverage is sweet and they can't taste the liquor. And drinking more = bigger hangover.

A study from Northern Kentucky University found that people who used diet mixers tended to get drunk faster, because the stomach processes the diet drinks quicker so alcohol reaches your bloodstream at a faster pace. What's more, researchers also found that participants were more unaware of their buzzed state with the diet mixed drinks than those who guzzled alcohol mixed with regular sugar-sweetened soda.

"The severity of your hangover can be based on a lot of different factors such as what you drink, how much you drink, and how healthy your lifestyle is overall," nutritionist Dana Kofsky told Bustle last year. "Drinks that are more likely to cause hangovers contain high amounts of sugar, mix together multiple kinds of alcohol, and have a high calorie count."

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Reactions to Alcohol Can Also Depend On Your Body

Some people may have physical problems with certain alcoholic beverages. Wine gives many people headaches, and there are a few ideas as to why that might happen.  Sulfites, a chemical used to preserve wine, have long been blamed for causing some wine drinkers to get headaches, but many experts dispute that theory. They instead point fingers at the high sugar content and histamines, which can cause allergy-like symptoms when consuming any aged product such as wine and cheese.

Some studies have found that red wines contain more histamines than sparkling or white wine and people who struggle with vino may be missing an enzyme that helps them metabolize it.

If you're hitting happy hour on an empty stomach, be prepared for a quicker buzz. A study from the Indiana University School of Medicine found that eating a meal before drinking helps the body to eliminate alcohol 45 percent faster than it would on an empty stomach.

When it comes down to it, how much alcohol you consume, rather than the type, has the biggest impact on how you behave while you're drunk. Keeping tabs on the quantity will help you avoid hangovers and minimize any oh-shit-why-did-I-do-that behaviors. 

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