Many people who can normally enjoy 2 or 3 alcoholic drinks at low altitude with no problems may suddenly seem to feel more drunk with the same number of drinks at higher altitudes. Some believe that they get tipsy quicker here in Colorado than if they were drinking at lower altitudes. Why is that?
Does higher altitudes make you drunker quicker?
Alcohol interferes with your blood's ability to absorb oxygen. And at higher altitudes there is less oxygen in the air. So does the combination of alcohol and less air really make you more drunk? Not really, as some people don't seem to be effected at all, but alcohol may make your condition even worse in the rarified air.
The odd effects you're most likely feeling is the sudden onset of altitude sickness. And if you get that, drinking alcohol can make it even worse.
Why do people suggest waiting a couple of days when you first get to higher altitude before drinking alcohol?
Studies have shown that there is no apparent difference in a person's blood alcohol content (BAC) between people who drank at sea level and those who drank at high altitude given the same amount of alcohol.
While you may feel less sober at higher altitude, it is not because you are more drunk, it is primarily because you are dizzy from the inability to absorb as much oxygen as you need. And some people are more susceptible to altitude than others.
Acclimating to altitude for a couple of days when you first get to Colorado may help you adjust your body to less oxygen and will help you be less likely to get altitude sickness and feeling hung-over, but the best way to overcome all that is to stay well hydrated (drink plenty of water) while you're at higher elevations.
Up in the mountains, there is much less air and water in the atmosphere, so your body is both hurting for oxygen and water at the same time. Drink even more water up there than you normally do and you should be able to cope better. Drinking a beer won't hydrate you nearly as well as water does - so in-between pints, better gulp down a glass of water too. Sure, you'll need to use a bathroom more often, but it's better than needing to use the bathroom for a less pleasant reason later on.
How to counter the altitude
The golden rule of "Drink 1 glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume" might not cut it as well here in Colorado. It's much drier out here. You may need to drink 1.5 to 2 glasses of water per adult beverage to counter the arid climate.
So, armed with this knowledge, when you come out to Colorado to enjoy all the great craft beers the state has to offer, just remember, load up on water, and try not to over-do things for the first couple of days out here. Your body will thank you later.
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