Historically, absinthe, also known as the “Green Fairy,” was said to cause hallucinations. According to Men’s Journal, it was popular with artists and writers even during the ban, including creatives like Vincent van Gogh and Oscar Wilde.
But will absinthe actually send you on a trip?
The short answer: it doesn’t cause hallucinations if that’s your worry. However, absinthe may cause other side effects related to drinking an alcoholic drink of this magnitude.
Scientist Ted Breaux proved that absinthe doesn’t have hallucinogenic ingredients in its mix, states Men’s Journal. According to the magazine, his experiment eventually led the world to accept the drink as mainstream again.
However, absinthe does have a proven characteristic that also raises questions. The drink is known for its high alcoholic content—that’s why it’s considered a high-proof herbal liquor. Because of that, absinthe will get you drunk quickly if you don’t dilute it.
According to HowStuffWorks, the drink consists of 55 to 75 percent alcohol, making it a 110- to 140-proof drink. By comparison, hard drinks like whiskey, gin, and rum have around 40 percent alcoholic content, which translates to an 80-proof drink.
Men’s Journal states that the safest way to enjoy this drink is by mixing 1 ounce of absinthe with 4 to 5 ounces of water before downing it.
But should health officials trust that the general public will know to dilute the drink that much?
The main concern with a drink this strong is the hands it could fall into. If a habitual drinker downs too much of this alcohol, his actions may very well resemble someone who is hallucinating.
Of course, those who drink alcohol should take responsibility for themselves. However, absinthe’s high alcoholic content could increase the chances of impairment.
Currently, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year in the U.S., according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In 2014, over 30 percent of all driving fatalities were related to alcohol, states the NIAAA.
Allowing a drink that’s stronger than most other alcoholic beverages into the U.S. could cause this rate to increase.
In addition, alcohol is known to interact with medication, both prescription and over-the-counter. According to Consumer Reports, one study by the National Institutes of Health dug into this topic. Of the 26,000 people who participated, the NIH found that 42 percent of alcohol drinkers were also taking medication that could interact.
That percentage rose when researchers looked at only those aged 65 and older. This fact warrants concern since alcohol often stays in an older person’s body longer. Older people are also more likely to be taking multiple medications every day, states Consumer Reports.
The consumer-dedicated site lists a variety of common medications known to interact with alcohol. Those include medicines like Valium, Warfarin, Lipitor and even OTC drugs like Advil, aspirin, Aleve and Tylenol.
The fact is that if these medications interact with common alcoholic beverages, think what might happen if someone unknowingly consumes absinthe while taking them.
Absinthe might be legal and more readily available in the U.S. now. But that doesn’t make it a safe drink. Casual drinkers should proceed with caution.