Thursday, April 25, 2024

The perils of imbibing the holy waters heavily

“It was all fun and games until I woke up in the middle of nowhere, spread-eagled on a strange bed, in an even stranger room with a less than perfect man wrapping his sweaty hairy arm around me. I slowly looked around the room trying to familiarise myself with my surroundings and when I saw the mountain of condom wrappers it all came back to me, the pre-dinks, the dinner drinks, the club drinks and the night cap which led to the blackout.”

Nametso* is your typical 22-year-old university student in Gaborone. She and her friends have steadily ascended to the party girls’ status. They are a group of beautiful, fun, witty young women who more often than not find themselves in compromising situations with strange men in strange places.

Here is the drill. On a Friday after class the girls convene at a convenient location to get dressed over a few bottles of wine. Once everything is on ‘fleek’ the girls proceed to a more public space. 

This is where they make their acquaintances with their suitors for the night conversations flow as does the wine or whatever beverage of choice is being ingested that day. 

At closing time those who can still function usually proceed to the club for some dancing and more drinking. Due to the alcohol, all caution is thrown to the wind at this point and bodies rub against each other on the dance floor and those brave enough take their rendezvous to the bathrooms do so. 

“Depending on the level of intoxication after the club, most of my friends and I end up going home or hotel rooms with these men, have sex with them and make a vow the next morning never to do it again only to repeat the cycle the very next Friday,” explains Nametso.

The extract below explains what happens to the body during whilst in taking alcohol:

One drink and the conversation starts flowing. Pour another and you start relaxing as your confidence grows. By the next drink you’re cheeky, chirpy and ready to party. But by the time you get into bed the world has turned upside down – and in the morning you have the mother of all headaches. What has happened to your brain?

Alcohol floods your brain like an enormous tidal wave, scientists have confirmed, so it’s no coincidence you start off feeling jolly but later struggle to stay on your feet.

The suppressing effect of alcohol affects one area of the brain after another.

The wave breaks in the forebrain then washes sideways and backwards over and through the brain and finally spreads to its deepest and most vulnerable part, the cerebellum, midbrain, brain stem and medulla oblongata, says Dr Izak Loftus, forensic and anatomical pathologist of the Pathcare Group in Somerset West. (The illustration on page 80 shows how it happens).

Your peripheral vision can be affected after a single glass of wine – even before the wave reaches your hindbrain.

The jovial phase
Drinking less than half a glass of alcohol an hour is enough to suppress the functions of the frontal lobes which control your inhibitions, self-control, will power, ability to judge and concentration.

When this part of the brain is being suppressed you have fewer inhibitions, your self-confidence is boosted, you become more jovial and daring and you talk more – and louder. All of this explains why alcohol is considered an excellent social lubricant.

This effect can be detected at a blood alcohol level as low as 0,01 g/100 ml, which is easily reached by drinking less than half a glass an hour. It’s way below the legal limit of 0,05 g/100 ml.

Believe it or not, at this stage your judgment is diminished and your personality has been sufficiently altered to increase your risk of dying an unnatural death – as a result of an accident or fight, for example.

The slurring phase
Next in line to experience the alcohol wave are the parietal lobes at the sides and on the top of your head.

When your blood alcohol level is about 0,10 g/100 ml (typically after two to three drinks an hour) your motor skills are impaired. Your speech may be slurred but funnily enough you don’t seem to notice.

Complicated movements such as buttoning your shirt or fastening a necklace are likely to become more challenging and you may experience a slight tremble.

The blurring phase
When the alcohol reaches the back of your head and the occipital lobe your blood alcohol level will be about 0,15 g/100 ml. By this time you’ve had four to five drinks (or two to three doubles) in an hour. Your intoxication level is becoming quite dangerous even though you might not think so.

Your vision is deteriorating ÔÇô it’s becoming increasingly difficult to judge movement and distance and your peripheral vision decreases. If you’re driving at dusk you’ll have trouble spotting a pedestrian or the little boy chasing his ball; unable to stop in time you could kill someone or crash into the back of a slow-moving lorry.

The toppling-over phase
When your alcohol level reaches 0,2 g/ 100 ml (after four to six drinks or three doubles in an hour) the alcohol wave is crashing over your cerebellum.

By now your balance will be severely affected and you’ll have trouble standing. Hopefully your friends have already seen to it that you’re lying down safely so you can sleep off the backlash of the booze.

The legless phase
If you’re not in bed by now you’ll be lying somewhere in a drunken stupor.

Your blood alcohol level is in the region of 0,25 g/100 ml and your midbrain has become affected. You’re paralytic, jittery and nauseous and your reflexes are severely impaired.

If you’re lucky you’ve managed to turn onto your stomach because if you’re lying on your back in this condition you may end up choking on your own vomit.

By this time you may have lost consciousness.

The deadly phase
If you drink four doubles an hour your blood alcohol level will quickly exceed 0,35 to 0,4 g/100 ml.

With this amount of alcohol in your body your brain will be hit with a vengeance. It’s now a matter of life and death: if the alcohol reaches the medulla oblongata (the part of the brain controlling breathing and blood circulation) you can die.

The morning after
You didn’t mean to drink too much but …


So consider these before taking that extra drink



Read this week's paper