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The Drunkening


qwertyy
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Spending the month at 8,500 feet, I'm discovering a range of bizarre effects altitude has on the body. For one, I had two drinks the other night--a lukewarm old-fashioned (bless the dear waitress for saving me from the ice because despite my idiotic insistence otherwise, alcohol does NOT kill parasites) and a glass of wine over about two hours--and I was nearly sloshed. Drinking beer slowly seems to be a good, monitorable route, and my friends here say that in time I could build up a tolerance.

So, when you're way up here, why do you get drunk so easily? Is the blood alcohol level actually higher than it would be after two drinks at sea level, or does the thin air just play havoc with brain function? If it's just havoc, then how can you develop a tolerance?

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Spending the month at 8,500 feet, I'm discovering a range of bizarre effects altitude has on the body. For one, I had two drinks the other night--a lukewarm old-fashioned (bless the dear waitress for saving me from the ice because despite my idiotic insistence otherwise, alcohol does NOT kill parasites) and a glass of wine over about two hours--and I was nearly sloshed. Drinking beer slowly seems to be a good, monitorable route, and my friends here say that in time I could build up a tolerance.

So, when you're way up here, why do you get drunk so easily? Is the blood alcohol level actually higher than it would be after two drinks at sea level, or does the thin air just play havoc with brain function? If it's just havoc, then how can you develop a tolerance?

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Take how easy it is to get drunk times a bajillion, and that's how worse your hangover will be at altitude.

I have blessedly not been hung over yet, but I think that's attributable more to cautious consumption of alcohol and copious consumption of water than anything else.

But what my friends advised seems to have been true: as I get acclimated to the altitude, the drunkening is less and less marked. Plus, I think I discovered (decided?) that my tolerance hadn't dropped so much as the dizziness I was getting because of the altitude was compounded by a beer or two; my motor skills and balance may have been way off, but my brain was working dandy (ie, conversing? O.K.! driving? N.O.!)

In any case, it's usually best to stick with beer in Africa anyway. I do NOT/NOT recommend Ethiopian wine, and the import tariffs on hard liquor and wines are through the roof. A perfectly respectable yellow beer is a dollar, while a shot of Johnny Walker Red (which they measure down to the CC) is ten bucks.

Incidentally, caffiene and sugar also have the same sort of extreme initial effects as alcohol. Cheap date, indeed!

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don't confuse me with the facts! I've sen the get-drunker-quicker syndrome in action dozens of times, with no relation to altitude sickness. Conversely in my odccasional forays back down to sea level since being up here, I find I can drink significantly more without showing the signs. I'll still be at at "Witty and Charming" (stage 2) and my sea level buddies are at "F**k Dinner"...(stage 5 I believe)
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... sea level...
A friend aboard a NOAA research ship in the Gulf of Alaska inversely experienced a boozy reaction after 3 weeks of diving in an Alvin submersible to depths of 5000 or so meters to study corals and such. The 3-man crew secretly toasted the eve of their last dive with contraband liquor and the friend got starched after 2 swigs. He awoke to a crapulous odyssey the likes of which even Jules Verne could never have fathomed. Feigning observation he tried to sleep away the malaise against a porthole until realizing the sub was at a lifeless stage of the descent. Extra-strength Ethiopian coffee was no relief as it was an instantaneous laxative 30 minutes into the 3 hour tour during which restroom accommodations within the VW bug sized vessel were a Snapple bottle and/or ziplock plastic bag. A squirming telephone Q&A with elementary school students topside was curt and aggravating. The torturous clenching and headache dissipated upon the sight of bone corals growing on underwater slopes rather than flat bottom which was an exciting discovery for bone regeneration studies or something. “Peter 5K” had acquired an appropriate suffix and the dinner conversation distinction of having been hung-over deeper than most.
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