Last updated: 05:23 PM ET, Wed August 19 2015

Why Is It Easier To Get Drunk On A Plane?

Features & Advice | Gabe Zaldivar | August 19, 2015

Why Is It Easier To Get Drunk On A Plane?

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Thanks to a USA Today Road Warriors article, we may have an answer to one of life’s greatest quandaries: How do we get so intoxicated on a plane from such tiny bottles of alcohol?

Megan Snedden, in writing for USA Today, pored over some interesting studies to find whether there is any truth to the easy, breezy manner we slip off into inebriation while sitting on an airplane.

Snedden cites an article from the World Health Organization that offers some specifics on the pressure in a plane flying at altitude.

Snedden writes, “Air pressure inside the cabin is actually equivalent to the pressure at 6,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level — roughly the same as Bogotá or Yosemite National Park.”

For anyone who has enjoyed a beer in Denver or any high-altitude locale, you tend to experience the warm effects from downing booze a bit earlier than you might expect.

I can personally attest that my trip to see the Colorado Rockies play was significantly cheaper thanks to needing roughly half the beers usually required to make watching the Rockies an entertaining enterprise. Now I thought this was all in my head, but Snedden states that there are reasons you feel alcohol more at higher altitudes.

It’s not that it is easier to feel the effects. Rather, it may have more to do with you already feeling a bit loopy from the location in which you’re drinking. Snedden states that there is no proof that altitude equates to lowered blood alcohol level but continues: “Suddenly going up to 8,000 feet increases dizziness, lightheadedness, and drowsiness, which are the symptoms of altitude sickness.”

This is presumably why some of us experience drinking problems on International flights:

Now this isn’t the first time we regaled you with the peculiar effects of flying—Well, effects outside numb legs and a suddenly capricious bladder.  

Back in December we offered a couple of reports that illustrated how the change in pressure may actually make you gassier while enjoying the comforts of modern aviation:

We have never wanted to fly less than we do at the moment.

If the various articles mentioned above are to be believed, airplanes flying across the world resemble very confined dive bars, replete with patrons getting drunk and breaking wind as they please.

It’s enough to ask for two of those very tiny but completely sufficient bottles of liquor.


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