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Can Animals Suffer From Alcohol Intake?

When the topic of alcohol abuse comes up, most of us automatically assume the conversation is about people who abuse alcohol or suffer from alcoholism. According to the alcohol related statistics, nearly 14 million Americans, or 1 in every 13 adults, abuse alcohol or are alcoholics. However, alcoholism is not just a human disease. Many different species of animals get drunk, stagger around, fall down and vomit due to ingesting alcohol.

For years, assorted eyewitnesses have reported seeing drunken squirrels, drunken monkey’s, drunken elephants and many other examples of intoxicated wildlife. Scientific studies now show that alcohol abuse and alcoholism is seen in wild animals, as well as in humans.

Tales of drunken elephants appears to be a myth


In this article, “Elephants Drunk in the Wild? Scientists Put the Myth to Rest”, by Nicholas Bakalar, written for National Geographic News, scientists discounted eyewitness reports of drunken elephants, stating that it is highly unlikely that elephants can get drunk by eating the fermented fruit of the marula tree.

Steve Morris, a biologist at the University of Bristol in England, co-authored a study, published in the Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, which states that sightings of inebriated wild elephants are just fanciful tales that entice and enthrall casual visitors and tourists. The truth is that while elephants are attracted to alcohol, there is no clear evidence of inebriation in the field.

Drunken animal behaviors mimic human patterns of alcohol use

Perhaps elephants cannot eat enough fermented fruit to become intoxicated, but other wild animals can, according to Scott Chen, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health Animal Center in Maryland. Chen co-authored a Methods study, in which laboratory monkeys were given an alcoholic cocktail, and then subjected to a series of experiments.

Monkeys participating in the experiments had blood alcohol levels that often exceeded the .08 percent, which is the legal limit in most U.S. states.

Chen said that some monkeys liked having a drink after a grueling day of hard work in the lab, similar to the way a person might like to sit down with a cold beer or other favorite cocktail, after a difficult or stressful work day. Researchers thus concluded that a preference for alcoholic beverages, by people and monkeys, can be attributed to a combination of both genetics and environmental factors.

Other animals known to get a snoot-full, now and again

Monkeys are not the only animals that have been known to get plastered. Elk, squirrels, bears and many other animals have been spotted staggering around after eating fermented fruit. Fruit bats also like to eat fermented fruit, but they seem to have a much higher alcohol tolerance than other animals and humans. Someone may need to get an intervention for these bats.

The fruit bats exceptional tolerance for alcohol is good news for police, since officers would have a time trying to catch and ticket a bat, for flying while under the influence.

How studying drunken monkeys may help people suffering from alcohol addiction

At the conclusion of the monkey alcohol experiments, Chen noticed that the monkeys appeared to suffer from withdrawal. Researchers hope that by studying the monkeys, they can create new drugs which may help prevent withdrawal symptoms, which all too often result in relapses in human alcoholics. There are lots of diseases that can creep in and not just liver issues as a result of consuming alcohol at dangerous levels for extended periods of time.

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