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11 Myths About Alcohol You Shouldn't Believe

02/19/2016 11:15am ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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There are a lot of times in this world when ignorance really is bliss. Remember how magical life was before you found out (spoiler alert) there's no Santa? How badass wrestling was before you learned it's fake? How infallible your parents were before you hit puberty?

But when it comes to alcohol, blissful ignorance only brings about unnecessary suffering, horrible hangovers, and misguided advice. Myths prevail in the booze world, and it's about time some of them get busted before your ignorance lands you on the bathroom floor again this Saturday.

Beer before liquor, never been sicker
It sounds logical enough: start with a few beers, and the following tequila shots will hit you harder. Start with shots, and beers help you "wind down" for the night. In reality, neither of these apply. Alcohol is alcohol (is alcohol). The order (or mix) of the drinks doesn't matter nearly as much as the quantity of alcohol entering your body at any given point.

What makes your life suck in the morning may have less to do with the order of drinks, and more to do with the total alcohol and congener content of the drinks you're throwing in the mix. Congeners are toxic byproducts of certain drinks, and typically the darker the drink, the higher the congener count. The "never been sicker" part you'll feel the next day... no matter when you drink it.

Showers, energy shots, and Bloody Marys cure hangovers
When a hangover has you in its devil's death grip, you'll try (and believe) just about anything for some sweet relief. From ancient folk remedies (bull penis, anyone?) to pseudo-pharmaceutical concoctions, the mystery of hangovers has left plenty of room for theories about how to cure them.

Just as vitamin C does nothing for your cold, your own personal hangover playbook likely does nothing for your tortured soul. Modern science has shed some light on actual hangover cures, and showers, energy shots, pickle juice, and Sunday morning mimosas have no place on that list. But if coffee and aspirin make your playbook, then congratulations: you've got yourself a solid lineup.

Alcohol kills brain cells
It may certainly seem true as your friend stage-dives off the bar onto three horrified strangers. This dumb behavior, along with your impaired memory tomorrow, is thanks to reduced inhibitions and damaged nerve endings called dendrites, not dead brain cells. Studies have shown that even heavy drinking can't slaughter your brain cells. They're resilient little bastards.

Your dendrites? Not so much. Dendrites carry messages between your brain and your body, and as you booze up, the messages get slower, screwing up your motor skills and learning ability. Anyway, the point is that you're not committing cellular murder by drinking... just cellular assault.

Beer causes a beer belly
OK, so this one's a little true, but there's a pretty big proviso. Saying that beer causes a beer belly is like saying bacon causes a bacon belly or bananas cause a banana belly. An excess of calories from anything, starting with "b" or otherwise, will pack on the pounds. While all calories are definitely not equal, they still play a major role in the fat-gain game. Consume more than you burn, and you'll gain weight. Period. The notorious belly reputation of beer is thanks in part to its typically high calorie content and how easy it is to consume those calories. But if you keep those calories balanced, you can kiss that belly goodbye, no matter where it came from.

Breaking the seal means you'll pee more frequently
Drinking alcohol will make you pee. That's a fact. It suppresses a hormone called vasopressin, causing fluids to get directed to the bladder. It's also a diuretic, sucking water out of your cells, and forcing it to the bladder. As these two mechanisms activate, it becomes increasingly difficult to resist the urge to go. At this point, breaking the seal feels akin to killing the watchman: once it's done, all hell breaks loose.

The only difference? The watchman's death is actually significant. Breaking the seal is all in your head. If you feel like you can't stop peeing once you start drinking, it's because those two mechanisms are still at work as long as there's alcohol in your system. No magical seal can prevent that from happening, so trying to hold it does little more than torture yourself and everyone around you with your pee-pee dance.

You can beat a breathalyzer
No. Just no. All those mints and pennies can't trick the chemical reaction used to measure your blood alcohol content. And if you're ever in a situation where you feel the need to beat a breathalyzer, maybe just lie down and take a nap instead of jumping in the driver's seat. Or call a cab, or your mom, or your local congressperson, provided you're close enough to him or her to ask for a lift. This isn't a test that you want to fail.

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