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"Beer Before Liquor, Never Been Sicker"

“Beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear?”

It’s something that most college students have heard, and maybe you’ve experienced it yourself (assuming you’re of age, of course.) But are you really signing a vomit contract by starting a night off with beer and ending it with liquor?

“I think it really depends on how much you drink, and it’s not a definite…but it holds some truth,” says Michelle Grosberg, a junior at Muhlenberg College.

The myth might, indeed, seem to hold some truth. Carbonated drinks, for one, increase pressure inside the drinker’s abdomen, which can force faster absorption of alcohol. Following this with high-alcohol liquor could make you sick if you overdo it. Also, carbonated drinks, like beer and bubbly mixers, can irritate your stomach lining, perhaps allowing for faster absorption of alcohol later. Having different types of alcohol in one night can also make it harder for your body to process the booze, as different types might need to be processed in slightly different ways.

That sounds like a lot of evidence in favor of this old college drinking legend. So is it true? Will you be less likely to get sick if you start with hard alcohol and finish off with beer?

“Doesn’t apply to me in the slightest,” remarked one Georgetown University freshman who, as an underage drinker, chose to remain anonymous. There’s a reason it doesn’t apply to him, though: it probably isn’t true.

The main issue, according to Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa of the New York University School of Medicine, is how much alcohol is consumed and whether or not it was consumed on an empty stomach. The fact that carbonated drinks irritate the stomach lining is probably largely irrelevant, as alcohol itself has an irritating effect.

Carlton K. Erickson, director of an addiction science research and education center at the University of Texas, has said that “Most people do not drink a lot of beer after they've had liquor.” More often, however, students start with beer and have shots later, drinking more than they might have intended and finding themselves hugging a toilet.

So, when people get sick after drinking beer and then consuming large amounts of liquor, they attribute it to the order in which they had the drinks. Most likely, however, the reality is that they simply had too much to drink. So, feel free to start the night’s party with the crack of a Budweiser before mixing that Bacardi punch--but if you get sick, remember that you probably just had one too many Bacardi punches.


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