Recently, I had a girls’ weekend with my sister, which involved walking around Manhattan, then eating, drinking and dancing before crashing at our hotel. I had one glass of white wine at the hotel bar before we went out, one glass of Pinot Grigio with dinner, and then one glass of wine at the dance place, before switching to water. That’s three glasses of wine. More than my normal quota of two, but still…
The next morning, I could barely get out of bed I was so hungover. I had the kind of hangover I used to get in college after a room’s party, where I drank all night, mixing vodka and gin and beer and god-knows-what-else. I starting getting paranoid that someone had slipped me a roofie.
I never understood that hangover until I came across an article in the May issue of The Atlantic: “Drunk and Drunker.”
“Most of us know, for better or for worse,” James Hamblin writes, “that drinking on an empty stomach…can leave us unduly inebriated. Less familiar is a series of external cues that may determine how much we’re affected by alcohol and other substances.”
In other words, WHERE we are when we drink influences how we feel. One study found that heart rates rose more (indicating intoxication) when people drank alcohol in an unfamiliar situation than when they were in a familiar situation. According to the Atlantic article, “people who were given alcohol in an office setting suffered more from its deleterious effects (meaning motor and cognitive impairment) than people who drank the same amount in a bar.” (So THAT’S why people who drink act like idiots at office parties!)
And maybe the context theory explains my drunk-on-3-glasses-of-wine night: I was doing things I don’t normally do—namely, spending the weekend in the city and staying up till two in the morning, dancing.
Has that ever happened to you, where you drink the same amount you normally do, except in a new setting, and it has a totally different effect?