Tequila drives you crazy – but not for the reasons you think it is

Some partygoers swear that vodka is the only alcohol that won’t give them a hangover or a night of embarrassing moments. Others say after tequila, wine, or whiskey they end up feeling broken or doing things they regret. Many people believe that the type of alcohol affects how you feel and behave. But experts say that alcohol is just alcohol, regardless of whether it comes in a beer can, a champagne flute or a shot glass.

“Different types of alcohol have no specific or consistent effects on behavior or mood,” says Nicole Lee, a psychologist and drug researcher at Curtin University in Australia. “What can affect your response is the type of experience you expect when you order a particular drink – which often turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she adds.

It is due to the amount of ethanol absorbed

colorful cocktails with tequila

First, some basic facts: Whichever drink you choose, alcohol – or, chemically speaking, ethanol – will break down your inhibitions. “You have less control over your thoughts and emotions when there is alcohol on board,” says Lee. “When you feel a certain way, alcohol tends to make it worse.” When people regularly enjoy a particular drink (such as wine or whiskey), they may mistakenly assume that it explains their feelings.

Other factors that will determine your reaction to a drink include how much ethanol it contains and how quickly you swallow it. Spirits that have a high alcohol content “are often drunk quickly as a shot and thus get into the bloodstream faster,” says Samantha Miller, a doctor and spokeswoman for the National Drug Helpline. This leads to dramatic physical and emotional effects that people can attribute to a particular drink – only it’s caused by the ethanol content, Miller says, not the type of alcohol.

Bourbon contains the so-called congeners

Some types of alcohol, especially red wine and bourbon, contain higher amounts of chemical compounds called congeners that are created during fermentation. It is speculated that they evoke certain moods and physical responses, but Lee says there is no real scientific backing for this claim.

“Drinks with congeners can make the hangover a little worse,” notes Lee, but they’re unlikely to have much of an effect on how you behave or feel. There is also some evidence that the carbon dioxide content of a drink affects how quickly the body absorbs alcohol, but these effects vary from person to person and have not been repeated on a large scale.

The type of alcohol and our expectations

cozy evening at home with red wine

So why are so many people convinced that certain drinks affect their mood and behavior? Much of this, the researchers say, has to do with the predictive power of our own expectations – a power that we tend to underestimate.

There are deeply ingrained cultural stereotypes associated with different beverages, Miller says. Most of us have heard that tequila creates a party atmosphere or that wine promotes lively conversations with friends.

When we order a drink, we often fall back on these types of cultural stereotypes without our realizing it. “The type of drink you choose can reflect your mood,” says Lee. “If you’re in a ‘crazy’ mood, you might go for tequila. If you’re feeling relaxed, you might be more likely to choose your favorite wine. ”So it’s no surprise that there is a kind of placebo effect here. Context also plays a role. Chances are you’ll feel a lot wilder drinking vodka with friends than you would when drinking a glass of brandy by yourself.

Friends drink cocktails and Prosseco

Regardless of which type of alcohol you choose – or how you feel about it – it’s important not to underestimate the powerful effects of alcohol in any form, Miller says. You should never assume that after two vodka and tonic cocktails, you would clear your head sooner than after two glasses of gin fizz. It’s the amount of ethanol that determines how broken you will feel, not the form in which it arrives.