Expert warns of five risks when drinking alcohol on a plane

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When jetting off on a holiday some people will be tempted to treat themselves to a drink or two while on the plane.

While health bodies have a recommended weekly limit of alcohol considered safe, this could be skewed by the effects of flying.

Addiction specialist at private rehab clinic Delamere, Martin Preston, warned of five risks that come with drinking alcohol on a plane.

Feeling drunker than usual

He said: “If you’ve ever drank an alcoholic beverage aboard a flight, you’ve probably noticed that you begin to feel its effects more strongly and quicker than you would if you were drinking on land.

“The reason for this is not because the alcohol content is higher in drinks on the plane, but that alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream more quickly, as a result of cabin pressure and lower levels of oxygen in your blood.

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“This means that you may feel drunker than you normally would when consuming the same amount of alcohol.”


“As well as feeling the effects of alcohol more quickly, drinking alcohol aboard an aircraft can also be dangerous because it can dehydrate you quicker, this is because in an aircraft the air can be extremely dry,” he said.

“When we become dehydrated and it’s coupled with the diuretic effect of alcohol, it can in some cases lead to dizziness, fainting or lethargy.”


Mr Preston explained: “Consuming alcohol on planes can also lead to a sense of confusion or brain fog.

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“Lower levels of air on planes can make us feel groggy and lethargic on its own, as the brain can be sensitive to lack of oxygen.

“However, when you couple this with alcohol, it can exasperate any problems related to this further, leading to feelings of tiredness, or impaired cognitive abilities.”

Sleep disruption

“If you’re on a long-haul flight and are hoping to catch up on some rest while on a plane, then it’s best to steer clear of alcohol altogether,” he warned.

“Some people may be tempted by the thought of a glass of wine, especially on the flight home from a stressful work trip, as it can relax you, but the type of sleep you get will not be restorative as alcohol often stops us from getting deep REM sleep.”

It may cause you to act out

Mr Preston added: “We all know that drinking alcohol has the ability to impair judgement and lower inhibitions, so when we feel its effects more intensely or quickly on a plane, it may cause a person to become loud and disrespectful to crew members and other passengers on the plane.

“Not only that but when inhibitions are lowered we have more trouble staying calm, meaning that drunken behaviour could lead to a confrontation or cause injury/harm to someone else.”

The NHS advises that adults do not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis.

One unit is equivalent to half a pint of lower to normal-strength beer or cider, a single small shot measure or slightly less than a small glass of wine.

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