February 8, 2015

Diet Soda Mixers Make You Drunker

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A new study shows that diet soda mixers made people reach higher breath alcohol readings faster. You can read a story about it here. It was a small study and may not be definitive but it is interesting. The drinkers in the study that drank Diet Squirt and alcohol reported feeling the same in terms of how intoxicated they felt as those who drank regular (sugary) Squirt and alcohol, yet had an 18% higher breath alcohol concentration. The theory in the study is that the body knows how to break down sugar and so takes its time and goes through its natural processes. But, the body does not have millions of years of biological evolutionary experience with breaking down the synthetic sweeteners and therefore expels the alcohol out of the stomach immediately, so it hits your bloodstream faster and in higher quantities than when mixed with sugar.

We all know that the amount of food in a person’s stomach can affect how drunk a person gets. It is a similar principle as with the diet soda situation. Food in the stomach absorbs the alcohol and slows it making its way out of the stomach and into the bloodstream. If the stomach is empty, the alcohol goes straight to the bloodstream. There have also been studies showing that alcohol mixed with energy drinks makes people get drunker quicker.

The takeaway from all of this is that people need to be mindful of what they are drinking, how much and how it is going to react with their body. Otherwise you can end up in trouble. Virtually nobody that I have represented ever “intended” to drive drunk. No one leaves the house thinking that it would be a good idea to get drunk and drive. That is one of the reasons that a DUI in Kansas is considered an “absolute liability” offense. In other words, unlike most crimes, you don’t have to intend to commit it. If you drive and you are intoxicated – you are in trouble, whether you thought you were OK or not. I have seen this play out over and over again throughout the 20 years I have handled DUI cases. Different drinks or drink combinations become popular and people have no idea, whatsoever, how it will affect them. When I started in the 1990’s, it was Jagermeister. Now, it is Fireball. In between it has been Red Bull and energy drinks, and now diet sodas. People also mix alcohol with prescription drugs without really knowing how that is going to turn out. Most of the people that I meet who have been charged with a DUI never expected it to happen to them. One shot, one oddball drink, one empty stomach or some other strange twist of fate and the next thing you know they are out on the side of the road doing field sobriety tests. Nobody that I have ever met has a definitive answer for how much alcohol it takes for them to reach .08. There is no way to really “know your limit”. What might put you over a .08 on one day, may not on another day. Sticking to what you know, avoiding shots, and eating before you drink is the best recipe for keeping things under control.

The best protective measure against getting charged with a DUI also includes not driving in the first place. A designated driver is great if everyone can stick to the gameplan. Unfortunately, it is hard for someone to sit in a bar all night drinking ice water while everyone else is partying. I have represented a whole lot of designated drivers who thought they would just have one or two and ended up getting a DUI. So, I recommend taking a taxi TO the bar. Then there is no temptation to drive later since your car is not even there. Getting dropped off, a taxi, a bus, a limo or party bus is a lot cheaper than a DUI. Oh, and avoid diet soda.



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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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