“Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy.” The quote by late American singer-actor Frank Sinatra explains the attitude alcohol lovers harbor about their drinks. Heavy social drinkers have the notion that they have a higher tolerance level to the effects of alcohol and can complete their tasks without their coordination level being affected.
Alcohol is the most common substance, so it is imperative to educate the youth about the hazardous effects of drinking. To reach out to various American communities and inform them about alcohol, alcoholism and recovery, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) observes Alcohol Awareness Month in April every year.
A recent study, titled “Alcohol-induced performance impairment: a 5-year re-examination study in heavy and light drinkers,” suggested how heavy drinkers abusing alcohol for a long time manifested no better performance than light drinkers when given complicated tasks to perform. The authors of the study, published online in the journal Psychopharmacology in March 2017, reported that though heavy drinkers manifested lower level of damage compared to light drinkers on a rote fine motor test over time, they failed to perform better on a test involving additional short-term, motor speed and acutely complicated tasks involving use of cognitive abilities.
The researchers evaluated details from the first six years of the Chicago Social Drinking Project to examine if 86 acute heavy drinkers and 69 light drinkers showed behavioral tolerance or alterations in perceived impairment during the two testing stages when they were young adults. The tasks allowed were the Grooved Pegboard and Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) during initial testing. Recurring tests were held after five years.
Prior to each task, the respondents were allowed a dose of alcohol based on their body weight so that they may have a specific breath alcohol concentration. The participants were then tested at 30, 60, 120 and 180 minutes after taking drinks. The researchers found that the participants failed to perform on both the tests under the effect of alcohol. Initial testing had demonstrated equal levels of impairment during both the tasks. Though both the groups of respondents performed better compared with their initial performance, the researchers attributed the same to constant practice.
In addition, the heavy drinkers also showed traces of chemical tolerance to alcohol, thus suggesting that heavy drinkers absorb and metabolize alcohol swifter compared to light drinkers. Elucidating the results, lead author of the study Ty Brumback said, “The most important thing about the study is that despite heavy drinkers’ extensive experience with alcohol, increased speed of metabolism, and lower self-perceived impairment, we show that on a more demanding task they are just as impaired as light drinkers.”
The study explained how alcohol can hamper neurobehavioral processes in heavy drinkers. The findings added to the previous studies indicating the nature and extent of hazardous effects of drinking. It also dispelled the myth that heavy drinkers were at ease with their activities compared with light infrequent drinkers.
The authors of the study emphasized how regular drinking to intoxication levels results in cellular adaptation within the brain, thus, altering the sensitivity level to alcohol. Inability to judge the gravity of any situation while drunk can result in heavy drinkers taking unnecessary risks.
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