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Mythbusters Mailbag: Drunks on a Plane
Question: Kevin from Grand Rapids asks: Is it true that you get drunk faster in an airplane, due to the altitude and cabin pressure? Does one drink in the air equal three drinks on the ground?
As our "alcohol expert" Dr. Bhushan Kapur from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine explains, one's blood alcohol level does not increase in the air. So drinking alcohol on an airplane, as opposed to on the ground, does not lead to greater levels of alcohol in the blood.
What contributes to the misconception that one drink in the air is equal to three on land, could be due to the on-board effects of hypoxia - less oxygenated conditions because of the low pressure environment, and high altitude - which can lead to bodily symptoms similar to intoxication (as less oxygen is circulated to the brain), says Kapur.
Also of importance is the way the alcohol is consumed. Notes Kapur, people tend to drink larger amounts, in a very short time upon airplanes. "In the air where alcohol is most likely to be drunk faster, BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) will rise very rapidly and yes you will be more impaired!"
researched by Aileen O'Dowd