Brent Rose, of gizmodo.com, is here to mythbust the old belief that drinking at altitude gets you more durnk.
There’s a phrase people like to repeat in Denver: “Be careful when you drink here.” The claim is that the altitude (elevation 5,280 feet) makes one drink between 1.5 to 3 times as potent. If you visit the area to ski this winter, the city officials will even warn you about it when you get to town. Is there any thing to it?
It’s Friday afternoon, you’ve made it through the long week, and it’s time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo’s weekly booze column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science, and alcohol. Today we’re drunk AND high.
When alcohol is present in the blood, it interferes with hemoglobin’s absorption of oxygen. Because higher altitudes have less oxygen in the air to begin with, it is thought that the effect is magnified, so you get even less oxygen to your brain. People are advised to not drink for roughly 48 hours after they arrive at a higher altitude.
It sounds somewhat reasonable at first. But if that were strictly true, everyone would be affected by it, whether they were acclimated to the elevation or not. Having spend three (rowdy) years of my life in Denver, I can tell you that some people seem mildly affected, and some don’t seem to be affected in the slightest. Other people are just drunks at any elevation.
More scientifically speaking, an Austrian study done in the 1990’s which found that there was no real difference in the blood-alcohol content (BAC) of people drinking at sea level and those at 10,000 feet. That said, the researchers did find a possible culprit.