It’s that time of year when the air gets colder and the days get darker. There are holiday parties to attend, snowball fights to be fought, and driveways to be shoveled. So how do we stay warm in the freezing temperatures? We wear our boots, hats, and mittens, and maybe take a swig of that buttered rum eggnog from the small barrel attached to a random St. Bernard’s neck, and then we take our axe to the woods to chop up some kindlin’ for Ma and the kids.
Yeah, yeah. I know.
But for people who are out and about, a nice glass of brandy or whisky takes the sting out of the cold, right? It certainly makes us feel warmer, that’s for sure; and after a short time, we’re feeling merry and bright, drunk already.
So is it true that you get drunk faster when the temperatures dip?
Unfortunately for seeking a shortcut to fun, no. You get drunk in the winter as fast as you do in the summer. (Actually, drinking in warm weather does get you drunk faster; “At higher temperatures, the body cells contain less fluid. As a result, the alcohol in the body is more concentrated, it has a stronger effect and the intoxication starts earlier.”)
The reason why you feel like you get drunk faster in the winter rather than in the summer is that you’re simply more likely to drink more in cold, dark weather. As we feel warmer when we drink, it only makes sense to drink more in the cold. And those of us who live in these cold and dark climates may drink more to soothe the sorrows that come with a lack of sunlight.
Drinking and cold weather: the science-y part of getting drunk
Drinking makes you feel warm. Here’s the science I promised you:
While alcohol can make you feel warm temporarily this is a perception generated by heat sensitive neurons (thermoreceptors) located in your skin that detect a rise in your skin temperature from an increase in blood flow in the vessels close to the skin’s surface. In fact, alcohol actually lowers your core body temperature because the rush of blood to the skin’s surface is a means of body cooling.
So while you may feel warm on the outside, you are getting cold on the inside. Alcohol consumption has also been shown to reduce the perception of cold air temperatures but it is thought that this effect may not come from changes in the dilation of blood vessels but may originate in the brain itself.
So if you’re going to have a drink, make sure you’re in a warm place, or that you aren’t going to be out in the cold very long. Make sure you’re wearing the proper outdoor gear for the freezing temperatures.
Drinking and cold weather: the crime-y part of getting drunk
Once you’re good and accidentally smashed, that’s when the “fun” begins. You are more likely to make poor decisions such as getting in a car and driving when you’re drunk. This is a bad idea in itself, but combined with slick, icy roads or other kinds of dangerous winter weather, you’re breaking the law AND putting yourself and other drivers and pedestrians at risk. Drunk driving can result in DUIs/DWIs, which can have some serious consequences for you if you even survive the experience, such as paying thousands of dollars or doing jail time.
We also tend to get metaphorically heated when we’re drinking, which can lead to a whole list of potential charges, such as:
- Sexual assault
- Domestic violence
- Public urination (not so much “heated” but still gross)
Drinking and cold weather: the life-threatening part of getting drunk
This has nothing to do with crime, but I care about you. In the United States, almost 1,400 people die each year because of the cold weather, and a decent amount of those are from people who died with a dangerous blood-alcohol level. If you’re walking home from the bar, be very careful. If you are too drunk, you may pass out and not even realize that you’re in any trouble until it’s too late. You could lose an extremity or limb due to frostbite, or you could possibly die from hypothermia. You don’t want to become another statistic.
If you’re out and you can’t drive home because you’re drunk, but you don’t want to freeze to death by walking home in the freezing weather, then perhaps you should catch a ride home with a designated driver, call a taxi, or use a ride-share app such as Uber or Lyft. These services are available to almost everyone, and they help keep our nights of fun exactly that.
It’s the time of year that we should be having fun, even as the days get darker and the nights colder. Celebrating with our family and friends by having a few drinks is a good way to have fun, but it’s important that we know the dangers inherent in getting drunk in cold weather. If you’re facing criminal charges related to drinking, call Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law in Annapolis or Ellicott City at 410-271-1892 or fill out the contact page. I’m here to help.
And remember — Keep Calm, and Call Drew.