∗Last November, on an Air India flight from New York to New Delhi, 34-year-old Shankar Mishra allegedly urinated on a septuagenarian woman in a drunken state. Mishra was the India vice president of a US financial services firm.
∗In December, a man was caught smoking in the lavatory on a Paris-Delhi Air India flight. He was reportedly drunk and refused to follow the cabin crew’s instructions. A little later, he urinated on the blanket of a female passenger.
The obvious commonality in the above incidents? The guilty men were under the influence.
The alleged misbehaviours raise some questions: What is the effect of alcohol on the urinary system? Does it lead to poor bladder control? Moreover, what is the link between drinking and such poor behaviour?
The internet is full of talk about ‘breaking the seal’ – apparently, those who drink urinate every 20 minutes. Doctors, however, disagree. The bladder gets full whether your glass is refilled or not, they say.
Many studies talk about the effects of ethanol on urination and the brain. Talking about the latter, a recent book says, “Ethanol leads to sedation, slurred speech, impaired judgment, uninhibited behavior, euphoria, and impaired sensory and motor skills.”
Drinking and urination
“Alcohol acts as a diuretic — it increases the amount of urine and promotes frequent urination. It interferes with the function of vasopressin, an anti-diuretic hormone which regulates the amount of urine formation,” says Dr Haleema Yezdani, a general physician and diabetologist from Bengaluru.
“Vasopressin is a hormone that regulates the amount of urine being excreted. Alcohol intake can interfere with the function of vasopressin and the individual has the urge to urinate all the time. High intake of alcohol makes you lose the sense of orientation, time and place, too.”
Dr Suriraju V, chief urologist and kidney surgeon at Regal Hospital, Bengaluru, says it is not that people lose control over their urinary system due to alcohol consumption, but it does make the kidney produce more urine than usual.
“The brain contains a hormone called antidiuretic hormone (ADH) which constricts the amount of urine produced by the kidneys,” he says. “Alcohol intoxication suppresses the production of ADH. This is the reason highly intoxicated individuals not only pass urine more frequently, but many are also seen bedwetting.”
Production of large amounts of urine causes the bladder to overwork and leads to bladder irritation. “Those [who] have pre-existing overactive bladder issues tend to lose bladder control,” says Dr Suriraju. “Overactive bladder is a disorder where an individual suffers frequent and sudden urges for urination. Such individuals find it difficult to control the urge to urinate.”
Drinking and psychological issues?
Dr Asfia Khaleel, a psychiatrist from Bengaluru, says people lose their sense of control under the influence of alcohol. “Their decision-making ability is impaired, their cognitive functions are not working properly and their motor control and coordination is lost. In case of high intoxication, temporary memory loss also occurs,” she says.
“Drinking alcohol makes you pee multiple times, you lose urinary control and it also increases chances of vomiting in case of drinking for the first time.”
Alcohol can affect the urinary system by making you urinate frequently. Experts say drinking also has an influence on decision-making and can cause temporary memory loss.