Thursday, July 5, 2012

Teetotal? Best avoid brand name colas!

"According to tests carried out by the Paris-based National Institute of Consumption (INC) more than half of leading colas contain the traces of alcohol."


See, I used to think that cola only got alcoholic when I put rum or whiskey into it.  Guess I was wrong!  So now that we know that there's alcohol in it, the next question is naturally:  how much do I have to drink to get drunk?

OK, so the article cites the figure of 10mg/L, and they helpfully translate that to .001% alcohol.  Beers vary, but in my experience beer is typically 5% alcohol by volume - which isn't quite the same as mass per volume, but screw it, we're going for quick & dirty.  In that spirit, let's define a "sip" as half an ounce - one twenty-fourth of a twelve-ounce can, or a fortieth of a twenty-ounce bottle.  Time to plug & chug!

To convert cola into beer, let's start with a twelve-ounce can of cola.  Then we divide by the alcohol content (or multiply by its inverse), one part in a hundred thousand, to arrive at "cans cola per ounce alcohol".  We want to convert cola into beer in terms of alcohol, so to cancel the alcohol out, we then multiply by the alcohol content of beer (5%, or one part in twenty) to arrive at "cans cola per ounce beer".  Finally, we convert the ounces into sips, with the conversion factor I defined earlier.  Here's our final equation (I'm using Courier just to make the spacing work out properly):

1 can cola x 100,000 oz cola x 1 oz alcohol x .5 oz beer
12 oz cola   1 oz alcohol      20 oz beer     1 sip beer

So what's that get us?  A little over 208 (208 1/3, to be precise), meaning that you'd have to drink over two hundred cans of cola to get the same buzz as you'd get from one half-ounce sip of beer.  To get the experience of a full can of beer?  Five thousand cans of cola.  When I wrote on absinthe, I noted that TTB testing requires less than 10mg/L thujone content in order to be called "thujone-free," an interestingly similar number.  Now, sure, thujone and alcohol are not the same, but still.

The article also states, "Those who are teetotal and drink Coke regularly will also be worried, as will those who choose it as an alternative to alcohol when they are driving."  No.  No, they will not, unless they're stupid.  Which - wait - OK, maybe they will be, after all.

Point is!  If you have to drink five thousand cans of something to equal one beer, you can't get drunk on it.  You would die of a ruptured stomach, and possibly get type 2 diabetes on the way, because you can't possibly drink Coke fast enough for the alcohol to remain in your system - you'll metabolize it faster than you ingest it.  You would get drunker by smelling liquor (which is to say, inhaling it) than you would by drinking Coke.  Or Pepsi.  Or whatever.

There is another issue, of course, which is that the alcohol may have an effect besides getting you drunk - like stimulating the brain's reward pathways minutely, thereby making you prefer it for reasons besides its taste alone.  Alcoholics might find themselves with an unexplained preference for such soft drinks, which - while still soft in every meaningful sense of the term - could trigger their brains into thinking they're getting liquor when they're actually not.  That's because the brain often responds to stimuli at thresholds well below what it takes to consciously register.  Imperceptible (or subliminal) stimuli can control your thoughts, screw with your judgment, and maybe even drive you to suicide.  But considering that colas are often loaded with caffeine and sugar anyway, I'm confident that the effect is negligible.


Steve Bowen said...

That must explain why I drinl Coke when I have a hangover. Subliminal "hair of the dog", even though its a very small dog...

D said...

...wouldn't that be a very small hair?

Steve Bowen said...

Small dogs have small hair, obviously.

D said...

Very well, then. Fair play to you. :)