The consumption of two bottles of beer can have the same effect on the human brain as a night of insomnia, a psychiatrist who heads an alcoholism treatment program in Taipei said on Tuesday in a discussion about a government plan to increase the penalties for drunk driving.
Drinking two 330ml bottles of beer would not only fail a breath alcohol test of the legal limit of 0.25mg/liter for drivers, but can also exhaust the brain, Mackay Memorial Hospital Department of Psychiatry head Fang Chun-kai (方俊凱) said.
“With two bottles of beer in the system, the brain becomes as tired as if the person had stayed awake for a whole night,” Fang said.
Excessive alcohol consumption cannot be metabolized by the liver and therefore enters other parts of the body, including the brain, where it slows down the signals between neurons and impairs the drinker’s ability to function normally, he said.
The effects could include attention and temporary memory loss, which could render a driver incapable of effective braking, Fang said, adding that in the worst-case scenario, the driver could fall asleep at the wheel.
Over the long term, the consumption of one or two 330ml bottles of beer per day could result in brain damage over a period of six months, he said.
“Long-term drinking can lead to cerebral atrophy and dementia,” Fang said.
Fang treats more than 300 alcoholics per year, many of whom are repeat drunk driving offenders.
Nonetheless, the government’s proposals for stiffer punishment for drunk drivers are too harsh, he said, suggesting that instead, repeat offenders should be stripped of their license and banned from buying vehicles.
He was referring to a statement by the Ministry of Justice that it is considering a bill that would allow a charge of voluntary manslaughter in drunk driving cases that result in death.
Under the existing law, drunk drivers who cause death or severe injury are usually permanently stripped of their driver’s license.
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