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Wake up and Smell the Alcohol
Lee Sungeun  |  oangelx@hanyang.ac.kr
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[310호] 승인 2011.03.02  
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn

   "Wangsimni's consumption of soju is more than that of Shin-chon. The funny thing is that only Hanyang University (HYU)  is located near Wangsimni whereas Shinchon is the home of Ewha Womans, Sogang, and Yonsei University." This is a rumor spread within HYU. Nobody may know whether it is true, but one thing for sure is that Hanyangians drink like no other.
   The Hanyang Journal conducted a survey on 200 students at both the Seoul and ERICA Campuses from January 28 to February 1 and found that 56.2 percent drink alcohol at least once a week. Such statistics show that the rumor regarding Wangsimni's soju consumption might be true. However, how many Hanyangians would actually know why they get drunk, what exactly determines their alcoholic tolerance, or even why certain methods have been introduced to heal hangovers?

Alcohol Makes the World Go Round and Round
   Alcohol makes people tipsy. As alcohol gets absorbed into the stomach and intestine, it passes through the blood stream and increases blood alcohol concentration. The alcohol that flows through blood veins paralyzes the central nerves, making the person feel dull. People also may find it difficult to think properly when they are drunk. This is because alcohol restrains the function of the left brain, which directs reasoning.
   However, the human body tries in its own way to slap the person out of drunkenness. It does so by secreting antidiuretic hormone (ADH), a substance which decomposes the components of alcohol. The hormone also triggers the body to discharge alcohol into sweat, urine or breath. However, Jun Dae-won, a gastroenterology doctor at HYU Seoul Hospital, claims that one cannot rely on ADH to wake out of drunken stupors. "The reason why people get drunk despite secretion of ADH is that ADH cannot perfectly decompose alcohol. Moreover, the hormone becomes ineffective when that person over-drinks, because ADH has its own limit," he said.
   Excessive drinking causes the state of a blackout, which is a temporary amnesia, or loss of memory. A person can process in the way he or she previously learned before getting drunk, but new learning cannot take place. This shows that when a person is  blacked out, he or she can communicate with others and sometimes even drive. However, he or she cannot remember those activities the next day. Kim Tae-wook, a Sophomore majoring in Chemical Engineering said, "After a night of one dreadful blackout, I wake up in the morning screaming, "Oh my gosh! Did I do something stupid last night?!? 
   A blackout occurs when alcohol paralyzes the hippocampus which is a major component of the brain. The hippocampus selects which occasion to save as long-term memory out of all the happenings that spread before one's eyes. So when the hippocampus ceases its function, nothing is left as a memory in the brain.

The More ADH the More Alcohol
   People each have a different alcoholic tolerance. One might have experienced how difficult it is to drink with a person who is much more alcohol tolerant. According to a survey publicized in December 2011 by the Korea Alcohol Research Center, a Korean adult drinks approximately six bottles of soju and seven bottles of beer in a single month on average.
   The efficiency of alcohol decomposition in the liver is what determines the alcoholic tolerance of a person and how fast he or she can wake out of a hangover. ADH secreted in the liver is what mainly decomposes alcohol. Hence, the amount of ADH is consequently what determines drinking tolerance.
   According to Kim Jun-myung, an oriental medicine doctor at Haewuso Oriental Medicine Clinic, the amount of ADH is inherited and the substance cannot be freely controlled. "A person might increase the amount of their drinking as he or she adjusts to liquor. Nevertheless, the ability of alcohol decomposition itself cannot be changed," he said.
   Jun, a gastroenterology doctor at HYU Seoul Hospital, commented that a light drinker can gradually increase alcoholic tolerance. This is so because when ADH grows impossible to decompose the increasing amount of alcohol entering the body, another kind of substance gets secreted within the body to take on the role of ADH. However, such a process may turn out to be harmful for the human body. "The problem is that the substance alternatively secreted is supposed to be used when detoxifying a different kind of matter or drug. If the substitute substance is excessively used to decompose alcohol, then it will show to be inefficient in other urgent cases," Jun said.

Oh, This is How I Relieve My Hangover!
   That uncomfortable feeling in the stomach one may receive in the morning after a long night of drinking is due to a substance named, ?cetaldehyde.?It is secreted as a by-product of alcohol when alcohol is decomposed in the stomach.
   Drinking water relieves a hangover. This is so because alcohol dehydrates the human body and triggers urination. A person in general loses 120cc of water after drinking a single can of beer which is 350cc. Chang Ki-hwun, a senior researcher at the Korean Alcohol Research Foundation said, "Insufficient drinking of water may put the brain and liver in shortage of moisture. This leads to abnormal functioning of such organs from properly decomposing alcohol."
   Another way to relieve a hangover is to have a meal before drinking alcohol. If a person drinks alcohol after a heavy meal, alcohol remains in the stomach before reaching the small intestine. This is noteworthy in that ADH in the stomach wall decomposes alcohol. A meal rich in protein decreases the blood-alcohol level more than one rich in fat and carbohydrate.
   Drinking juice or honey-water is also advisable to ease a hangover. As drinking leads to the lowering of blood sugar level, this condition further brings about sweat, trembling of hands and feet, and a faster heart beat. Juice or honey-water would be necessary to prevent the blood sugar level from falling too much.
   Furthermore, Kim, an oriental medicine doctor at Haewuso Oriental Medicine Clinic, emphasized the consumption of food that helps the functioning of liver. "Food with a high content percentage of protein and vitamin is efficient to the liver. Eating such foods is crucial because liver cells are what help decompose alcohol," he said. Bean sprouts, clams, and dried pollacks are some examples in specific. Chang explained that bean sprouts have a high content of asparagines, which helps the liver secrete more ADH. He also pointed out that dried pollacks contain much amino acid which protects the liver.

A Flight From Alcohol
   A new semester has begun and soon the nights of Wangsimni will be filled with roars of "Cheers!" Too much alcohol will beat Hanyangians down to the floor, disabling their proper functioning of the brain and central nerves. Some students will wake up in the morning wishing it was all just another dream, like Kim who majors in Chemical Engineering. Others may regret having started to drink with the person in front of them yelling, "Gosh, this person must have double the amount of ADH than me!"  Understanding the principle of getting drunk and learning the tips to relieve hangovers could make people more cautious. Such a state allows people to be more aware of their wellbeing. However, Jun from HYU Seoul Hospital underscores that the best and most simple way to protect oneself from the harms of alcohol is to take flight instead of fighting against it. "It is crucial to drink less in the first place rather than looking for remedies to cure one? hangover afterwards," he emphasized.

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