Taipei-The consumption of two bottles of beer can have the same effect on the human brain as an entire night of insomnia, a doctor who heads an alcoholism treatment program in Taipei said Tuesday, weighing on the discussions on a government plan to increase the penalties for drunk driving.
Fang Chun-kai (???), chief of the Department of Psychiatry at Mackay Memorial Hospital, said that drinking two 330-milliliter bottles of beer will not only send the breathalyzer test past the legal limit of 0.25mg/liter for drivers but can also exhaust the brain.
"With two bottles of beer in the system, the brain will become as tired as if the drinker had stayed awake for a whole night," Fang said.
He said excessive alcohol cannot be metabolized by the liver and therefore enters other parts the body, including the brain, where it slows down the signals between neurons and thus impairs the drinker's ability to function normally.
The effects may include loss of attention and temporary memory loss, which could render a driver incapable of braking, Fang said, adding that in the worst case scenario, the driver may fall asleep at the wheel.
Over the long term, the consumption of one or two 330-milliliter bottles of beer per day could result in brain damage within a period of six months, he said.
"Long-term drinking can lead to cerebral atrophy and dementia," Fang said.
At Mackay Memorial Hospital, the doctor said, he treats more than 300 alcoholics per year, many of whom are repeat drunk driving offenders.
Nonetheless, the government's proposals for stiffer punishment of drunk drivers are too harsh, Fang said, suggesting that instead, repeat offenders should be stripped of their drivers' license and banned from buying vehicles.
He was referring to a statement by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) recently that it was considering a law amendment to allow charges of voluntary manslaughter in drunk driving cases that result in death.
Under Taiwan's existing law, drunk drivers who cause death or severe injury to others are usually stripped of their driver's license permanently.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel