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This is why you feel more drunk on a plane

This is why you feel more drunk on a plane
Written by Travel Adventures

Overall, the best advice on drinking responsibly is to understand your own limits and act accordingly. Make sure you’re being sensible and don’t let yourself get swept up in excitement.

Some people drink to calm nerves or help sleep on planes – can this help?

“What is more important is figuring out what can actually help nerves – and there are much better alternatives to booze,” Jo tells us. “While it may initially feel like you’re more relaxed after drinking alcohol, this effect can wear off and in fact, in terms of anxiety, make things worse.

“Alcohol slows down your central nervous system and brain, and it also increases the levels of serotonin or ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters, which initially leads to feelings of relaxation and social lubrication,” she continues. “However, once it leaves your system you can feel more panicky. Essentially your brain is trying to rebalance neurotransmitters back to their normal levels which can cause a dip in dopamine and that classic ‘hangxiety’ feeling. One drink isn’t necessarily going to make you feel terrible, but drinking solely for this reason alone may not be advisable as you are likely to reach for another glass once the effects start to wear off.”

There are plenty of alcohol-free alternatives to soothing nerves and travel anxiety. “Ashwagandha is a great adaptogen for calming and reducing cortisol in the body,” Jo recommends. “Other herbs such as passionflower, chamomile, and lavender have long been used for anxiety and relaxation – you can have these as a supplement, herbal tea or even essential oils. You can also download a meditation specifically for sleep or reducing anxiety or try tapping therapy (an alternative treatment where you tap on the 12 meridian points for emotional distress) which can be incredibly effective.”

Are there any other consequences to getting drunk on a plane?

“The main issues are with the side effects of drinking in general, coupled with some of the side effects of flying,” says Jo. “For example, travelling by air is a dehydrating experience, and so is drinking alcohol, so you are even more likely to suffer the effects of dehydration. As well as affecting your skin, brain and digestive system, dehydration also has an impact on our immune system – and both alcohol and flying in general can be an onslaught on our immune system thanks to being in such close proximity to so many people and the dehydrating air conditioning.”

Plus, drinking alcohol on a flight can potentially have more consequences than simply the physical effect on your body. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, “disruptive passenger behaviour is one of the main reasons for aircraft diversions” and can “affect your safety and the safety of fellow passengers”. Plus, passengers can face civil prosecution if they display any disruptive or unacceptable behaviour, including refusal to adhere to safety checks or instructions, abusive language, or excessive intoxication. Prosecution could involve fines (maximum fine is £5,000) or imprisonment (maximum sentencing is five years) and, according to the CAA, “disruptive passengers may also be asked to reimburse the airline with the cost of the diversion, which typically range from £10,000 to £80,000 depending on the size of the aircraft and where it diverts to”.

Overall, “although there may be ways of enjoying an alcoholic drink in a balanced and safe way, getting drunk may not be the best idea when mid-air, travelling to a different country where you may need to make some important and quick decisions and be aware of your surroundings,” says Jo. Drink responsibly, and visit drinkaware.co.uk for advice and support.


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