Drank a little too much after a house party? Thinking a little too much about whether or not you should call a cab or just drive yourself back home? Before you decide to choose the latter option, you should try your hand at the latest video game - Booze Cruise — a game that stimulates what it is like to drive drunk.

Did You Know?
Young drivers are more often involved in alcohol-related crashes than any other age group. Developed at the University of Calgary, this interactive game involves the player driving through a course where difficulty level varies depending on the level of drunkenness. For instance, if you're "hammered" with a blood alcohol level of 0.25, then you would be driving through the course with blurry vision and delayed reflexes.

At the end of the game, you learn how many demerit points you have racked up and any possible jail time. Not only is the game engaging, but also it sends out an important message: Drinking and driving do not mix well.

Did You Know?
The legal drinking age in Canada is 19, except in Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec where the legal age is 18. The Science Behind Getting Drunk

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that slows down brain activity. Alcohol is a small molecule that is able to pass into the bloodstream and go into the brain. In the brain, alcohol affects the production of a number of neurotransmitters - chemical messengers that are produced to cause specific effects — which cause the symptoms of being drunk.

For instance, glutamate is a neurotransmitter that excites cells in the brain and stimulates action in other cells. However, in the presence of alcohol, glutamate release decreases.

In contrast, the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) is increased. GABA is believed to be responsible for loss of memory during drinking because it is found in the memory-storing region of the brain, the hippocampus.

These changes in neurotransmitter levels affect the brain's reaction time response. It also causes a loss of control of coordination and is responsible for the drunken walk.

Did You Know?
Based on the latest mortality data available, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people from 15 to 20 years old. Dopamine and serotonin are two other neurotransmitters that are important when talking about alcohol. Their release is important for stimulating a reward-like experience that is often associated with drinking. These hormones are also released when we are involved in other rewarding experiences such as sex and eating.

But how exactly do these neurotransmitters work? When neurotransmitters are released by cells, they bind to receptors and then cause changes to the cells that they have become bound too.

For instance, by binding to receptors in the cell membrane, the neurotransmitter can cause certain channels to open allowing ions to move in to the cell. An ion is a charged particle and is often found floating outside cells.

Did You Know?
On average just under 4 Canadians are killed every day and just under 190 Canadians are injured each day by impaired drivers. Blurred vision also occurs with drinking. This is because alcohol prevents the breakdown of glucose. With a decrease in the level of glucose, the cells are unable to transmit the visual stimuli from the retina to the brain.

How much is too much?

The current acceptable Blood Alcohol Level is 0.08. This basically means that you are not allowed more than 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milligrams of blood.

But without a Breathalyzer to measure your breath, how do you know when you've crossed the limit? The best thing to do is when you drink do not drive. Why risk it?

Learn More!

University of Calgary — Booze Cruise

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

Neuroscience For Kids

About Alcohol

Safety Council Information on Drunk Driving

Amanda is currently in her last year at University of Toronto completing her HBSc in Biology and Zoology. During her spare time, Amanda likes watching movies, canoeing and rafting.


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