Human-beings have been creating and drinking/ingesting alcohol for as long as civilization has been around and while there is ample evidence that booze is a net negative on society… It’s just so darn tasty/fun/emotion-killing. So, despite the negative effects, booze is going nowhere fast and will be around for as long as human civilization will be. With that in mind, let’s look at fifteen facts about booze that people may not know. So next time you take a drink you have a fun conversation to start…. With your cats.
15. Drinking Age
The United States has had a legal drinking age of between 18 and 21 for most of it’s existence, which is seen as either very strict or very lax, depending on which country you’re from. In countries like Cambodia or Sierra Leonne, there is no minimum legal drinking age. Some countries are more strict than those, but less strict than the United States, and have a minimum legal drinking age ranging between 10 and 15 (Antigua, Barbuda, etc.). If you are reading this from the United States or Canada (where the legal drinking age is 18) you may think you had it rough growing up, but just thank your lucky stars (or in Canada’s case, maple leaves?) that you weren’t born in Somalia, Afghanistan or Pakistan. In these countries it’s completely illegal to drink and people have been sentenced to death over their right to party. Granted, they were repeat offenders (first offenders get off with up to 80 lashes), but still. Dying for the right to drink yourself to death, what a strange, strange irony.
14. The Breakfast of Champions
Along with lax drinking regulations when it comes to age, some countries don’t think twice about having a drink (or two) at breakfast time. While that sounds awful to most of us, you have to keep in mind that some of these countries (like Scotland) drink a lot of alcohol so they are really just adhering to the idea of the “hair of the dog that bit you” in terms of pounding some booze at breakfast. Well, “pounding” may be a bit of a stretch as Scotland does have specific alcoholic beverages that are marketed as morning brews, such as a drink called “Cold Turkey” that is said to have “all the malty taste as a multigrain cereal”. But, that drink only has 2.8 percent alcohol (about a third of the content of most beers in the US/Canada), so it’s not like you’re going to get smashed before you go to work… Unless you live in Denmark, where it’s not uncommon for people to drink Gammel Dansk, a Jagermeister-esque concoction that has 38 percent alcohol and can be consumed in the morning alongside coffee… Lots and lots of coffee…
Every wonder why it takes you so long to feel your drink? Well, it is said that it only takes about six minutes for your brain cells to begin to react to alcohol. While that seems like a short amount of time, a lot happens subconsciously, which means that you’re not aware of it and that’s why you can essentially still receive a DUI even if you don’t “feel drunk”. The cognitive effects of alcohol come later while things like reaction time or balance (things that we feel in control of but that come from different parts of the brain than cognitive function or really, our filter on reality) can go a lot faster than the amount of alcohol it takes for you to start getting all emotional and tipsy. So, keep that in mind the next time you’re in a drinking contest. You have about six minutes before things really kick in, so if you can start and get to bed in around five minutes, you have nothing to worry about!
12. It’s Toxic!
I’m sure most people understand that on some level alcohol is toxic (which is why we rarely drink 100% pure alcohol) but the fact is that all alcohols (including ethyl alcohol, which is the kind that we drink) are technically toxins. The family or type of alcohol just determines what sort of toxin it is, or rather whether or not it would kill you instantly, quickly or over time. Sure, just drinking one beer won’t kill you, ever (thanks to our kidneys/liver) because our bodies are used to alcohol (yay, evolution) and the percentage of alcohol in one beer is around 5-6% (on average), but there’s a reason that people can drink themselves to death in one sitting or over the course of a lifetime and that’s because liquor is poison! It just happens to be really, really fun poison, so, worth it?
11. Johnny Appleseed was a Booze Merchant
Most kids know the story of Johnny Appleseed, the man who toured the countryside planting apple trees as he went, providing food to those who needed it in the early days in American history. However, the story was changed a bit to make it palatable for children as the real reason that Johnny planted so many trees was that hard cider (which is making a comeback in the United States) was extremely popular back in the day and people were using all of those apples to get wrecked. In fact, it is thought that only one of Johnny’s original trees is still in existence as the US Government eventually went around destroying all of them to limit the flow of booze apples. The trees actually produced inedible apples, so they had really no other use, but still, it’d be really cool to be able to go to an orchard, get wrecked and stumble the same path that Johnny stumbled over 200 years ago.
10. Blame it on the Monkeys, Man
The next time that someone yells at you for getting drunk, tell them that if they really want to get the core of the issue they need to drive to their nearest Zoo and yell at the monkeys. According to one hypothesis, the aptly named Drunken Monkey hypothesis, humans are attracted to ethanol because our ancestors were attracted to the ripest fruit (which was their dominant food source at the time). Because ripe fruit tends to ferment, that would explain both why humans have built in filters for things like ethanol and why booze has been part of human life as far back as 100,000 years ago. It also explains why monkeys near resorts tend to steal discarded booze, even though I’m sure they like the booze a lot, too.
9. Internal Brewery
There has been an argument put out there by many a defense attorney, and backed up by Japanese Doctors, that because the human body naturally contains yeast, that alcohol fermentation (when yeast converts sugar into ethanol) can happen in the body naturally and thus either skew the results of an alcohol test (blood/urine) or even produce drunkenness in some extreme cases. While this may sound too good to be true, or too terrible to be false, to some, it has only been measured, again, by Japanese doctors whose patients have a serious yeast infection. So, if you’d like to get drunk for free, I guess the tradeoff is one of the most uncomfortable infections known to man. Let’s just stick to the six-pack.
8. It Cures What Ailes Ya!
Older people have always thought that liquor has held some sort of fantastical medicinal qualities to cure things like laryngitis, colic… Even cholera and that stems back to early America… Which stems back to England itself. Back around the time of the colonies in America, the waterways in Europe were extremely polluted (with a lot of human waste) and so people were forced to substitute water with alcohol if they wanted to stay hydrated (while dehydrating themselves simultaneously). That habit of drinking pretty much at every meal carried over to colonial America, where people drank on average 8 ounces of liquor a day! So, of course, that translated into curing people of diseases as people tend to feel less pain when they’re drunk so they all seemed to be a lot healthier and happy when they were drinking.
7. Drunk as a … Shrew?
While you’d think that humans would have the highest tolerance for alcohol in the world (of all animals) that’s actually not the case. There’s a species of shrew, called a pen-tailed treeshrew, that consumes the equivalent of eight glasses of a wine a day by consuming fermenting fruit and nectar from plants and flower buds. They basically look like the North American squirrel’s drunken cousin, so, the next time you come across a shrew begging for change in a tree, you’ll know why!
6. Check the Genes!
While opinions appear to be changing, history hasn’t looked kindly upon people who imbibe too much alcohol, also known as alcoholics. While many who do have a drinking problem have said that they can’t help it, only recently has science really come in to save the day and both validate those people’s reasoning and provide some relief. Scientists have studied the genetic make-up for human beings for awhile now and they believe they’ve found at least one of the culprits behind alcoholism in human beings. Some people do not have the protective genes in their DNA to protect their bodies from alcohol, namely by digesting/metabolizing acetaldehyde, which has been found to create awful psychological side effects while also stimulate one’s urge to drink. Native Americans, for example, have been found to not have this gene and they’re the (per capita) largest group, ethnically, that drinks themselves to death each year. As science begins to further explain the human genome perhaps we’ll be able to discover cures for something that really only has one solution, abstaining, right now.
5. Drinking While Pregnant?
In America, the CDC recommends that pregnant women abstain completely from drinking alcohol for the entire 9 month period of their pregnancy. While that seems to make sense, as they have a human being growing and developing in their bodies, there may not be a lot of scientific data to back up that complete ban. For example, a recent Danish study found that women who have one glass of wine per week while pregnant had children with far less behavioral and emotional issues than children whose mother’s abstained from alcohol completely during their three trimesters of development. But that’s just the thing with studies, they can identify correlations or causations, and that’s why more studies need to be done on the subject. It’s hard, however, because if the assumption is that even one glass of wine per week is bad for the unborn child, there’s not ethical way to really have a study of women who are drinking and thus mothers may be out of luck for the foreseeable future when it comes to be able to have a glass fo wine, or two, a month (for nine months)!
4. It’s a Killer!
As we’ve discussed thus far, alcohol has positive and negative effects on the world (of people and animals), but there is one statistic that is especially sobering when it comes to alcohol’s effect on mankind and it’s that in the world one person dies every 10 seconds because of alcohol. Whether it’s from chronic disease or accidents caused by alcohol, one could make the argument that alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the world but because it is such a large part of so many cultures (Western cultures, especially), it’s allowed to be sold and regulated while much safer alternatives like Marijuana are still technically classified as a Schedule I Narcotic in the United States. Most people understand that this makes no sense and hopefully, in the near future, we’ll have some common sense reforms when it comes to both the liquor and drug industries/worlds.
3. You can’t digest it
While it’s been shown that humans (and the animal’s that we evolved from) have built in ways for our bodies to deal with alcohol, the fact remains that we can’t actually digest alcohol (as in break it down in our bodies), even if our bodies do produce trace amounts of alcohol naturally (See #9 on this list!). Alcohol, like many drugs, actually gets sent directly into the bloodstream from the stomach/intestines and while it gets filtered out of the blood via the kidneys and liver, it isn’t actually digested in any meaningful way. That means that the adage of “renting beer” (as you’re just going to pee it out eventually, anyway) makes a lot of sense and also explains why alcohol, by itself, has no nutritional value (and probably why people in colonial America only lived to be about half the age that people do now)!
2. It May Not be as Popular as You Think…
While this list has shown how ingrained alcohol has been in human civilization since really the beginning, you may think that a vast majority of adults consume at least a few beers a week. While there is a tremendous amount of bias in self-reporting, some studies have found that up to 48 percent of the world’s population has reported never having an alcoholic drink in their entire lifetimes! While that may make sense as some countries ban drinking outright, considering the fact that every ten seconds someone in the world dies from something alcohol related, you’d think that number would be a lot higher. Maybe that’s why the Feds in the United States thought that they could get away with prohibition? Either way, it obviously didn’t work and alcohol is as popular today in many places as it’s ever been, so… Drink up… half of you?
1. Prohibition Was Worse than You Thought…
Prohibition occurred during the (ironically titled) Roaring 20’s in the United States and while it created all sorts of ancillary issues (like the Mafia for example) there was actually something far more sinister occurring thanks to the Federal Government at the time (even if they didn’t really mean for it to happen). Attempting to find a way to make industrial alcohols impossible to purify (while still allowing them to be used in industry), the government decided the best way was to dump a ton of poisonous chemicals into it in the hopes that it would make it impossible to re-purify and thus destroying any incentive people had to drink it. Well, that didn’t really work out as they under-estimated people’s urge to drink and many, many people died after drinking the noxious mix of alcohol (a poison). Other poisons, could cause someone to go blind in as few as three drinks. This was such a big deal that Time Magazine reported on it at the time and it’s also why people still believe that “low-grade” alcohol can cause blindness.