With The Hangover Part III set to hit theaters May 23, we at TORO have hunkered down to pre-drink for the next few weeks. In our moments of clarity we also combed the net and discovered some surprising truths about alcohol consumption.

Do Mexicans really drink tequila with a worm in the bottle? Is underage drinking on the rise? Read on to find out.

6. MYTH: A hangover can be “cured.”

Drink black coffee! Consume fructose! We’ve all prayed for an end to our Wednesday morning hangovers, and after having encountered the indifference of God yet again turned to home remedies.

Part of the problem in fishing for a hangover “cure” is that hangovers aren’t caused by one specific thing, and are thus absent one specific solution. For moderate drinkers the culprit is likely dehydration brought on by an inhibition of vasopressin – essentially, the hormone that tells your kidneys to send water to the bloodstream instead of directly into your pants. Heavy drinkers with severe hangovers are likely enjoying a combination of dehydration and the side effects of ethanol intoxication / withdrawal.

Try a preventative measure: before drinking, eat a meal that’s high in fat. The food will stick in the stomach lining for a longer period and slow down the effects of alcohol (both positive and negative, mind you). In the morning, eating eggs can be somewhat remedial: they contain cysteine, which can break down the alcoholic toxins currently dancing the morning away in your liver.

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5. MYTH: Tequila is traditionally served with a “worm.”

We’ve learned to temper the disgusting taste of tequila by licking salt and sucking on lemons, but as we all know the real stuff is even worse, served with a slimy prize at the bottom of the bottle – isn’t it?

Fortunately (right?) the “tequila worm” is more or less a myth, at least in terms of being a “traditional” Mexican delicacy. The practice was actually invented in the 1950s by Oaxaca mescal brewer Jacobo Lozano Paez. Paez noticed that worms boring into one of his ingredients - the agave
plant - would sometimes get mixed up in the brew. In lieu of meeting the health code he simply began adding worms to all his bottles, a ridiculous grab for distinction that somehow worked out.

While it is certainly possible to find “worm” bottles today, they’re more like a joke on gullible tourists than an authentic cultural practice.

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4. MYTH: Youth drinking rates are rising.

Despite what the news will tell you, things are generally getting better. Crime rates across North America have been on a steady decline for decades, and in Canada underage / youth alcohol consumption has been decreasing for years.

In 2011 Health Canada revealed the results of a seven-year study, finding that since 2004 reports of “previous-year drinking” among those aged 15 – 24 dropped almost 12 per cent. Excluding Alberta all provinces reported drops, with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island having the lowest rates of past-year consumption. The study also found that over-24 / adult rates were almost ten per cent higher. Kids – hide your liquor!

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3. MYTH: Drunk driving incidents are dropping.

Anti-drunk driving advocacy is a huge deal in Canada. Groups like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) have reached out to young people well before they reach legal drinking age, and promoted iconic TV spots like the infamous “foggy glass” commercial below.

While the push worked for a while, it seems to have all but stopped having much impact. While drunk driving rates took a huge dive from about 600 incidents / 100,000 people to around 250 from 1986 - 2000, since then they've essentially leveled off, actually increasing over the past five years.

Arguably these numbers have been skewed by increased roadside checks  - if you didn’t get caught, after all, you didn’t become a statistic. But if there’s a limit to how far something can be turned into a social taboo, drinking and driving may have reached it.

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2. MYTH: “Alcohol-free” means “No alcohol.”

One of the best lessons you’ll ever learn about advertising is how rarely “___ free” stuff is rarely completely “free” of the thing you’re ostensibly trying to avoid.

Just as “fat free” and “caffeine free” products can still contain some amounts of fat and caffeine, non-alcoholic beer in Canada and the United States commonly has about 0.5 per cent alcohol per volume. Such beverages are more popular in the U.S., where purchase by minors is legal in
most states.

0.5 per cent isn't a lot, but keep in mind the very real “placebo effect,” something medical professionals are just starting the learn the truth of. Basically, if your body can simulate the effects of drunkenness – and it can - you might as well actually be drunk. This may help you avoid legal intoxication, but can still cause problems for minors, motorists, pregnant women, and recovering addicts.

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1. MYTH: Alcohol cannot increase your ability to drive.

Stay with us. While putting alcohol into a driver is a terrible idea, putting it into your tank is becoming an increasinly popular alternative. “Gasohol” (ethanol fuel mixture) is gaining popularity in certain parts of the world. The preferred combination of 10 to 20 per cent ethanol and 80 to 90 per cent alcohol – 15 / 85 in its popular E85 brand - has been found more efficient than standard gasoline on vehicles properly modified to handle it.

Of course ethanol fuel is derived from organic crops, opening up all sorts of “food vs. fuel” debates that have yet to be settled. But over the past few years it has risen to over 10 per cent of the American gas supply, giving some relief to the constant hangover we give Mother Nature.

[ Sources [1], [2] ]

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