In Danish director Thomas Vinterberg's latest film, Another Round, friends Martin, Tommy, Peter and Nikolaj agree to conduct a little experiment: they stay moderately intoxicated throughout the day to see how it affects their social and professional performance. .
The four middle-aged men are dissatisfied with their jobs as teachers at a grammar school in Copenhagen. On Nikolaj's 40th birthday they are talking about the Norwegian psychiatrist Find Skårderud, which claims that humans have a natural alcohol deficiency and that a blood alcohol level of 0,05% makes you more creative and relaxed.
The group of friends starts the experiment and records their 'findings' in an essay. The basic rules are – in the first instance – that the alcohol level in the blood may not fall below 0,05% and drinking alcohol may only take place during working hours. The teachers cite Hemingway and Churchill as their sources of inspiration.
“I haven't felt this good in ages”, says Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) in the early stages of their experiment. But things don't stay that way. Soon the men increase their dose and things spiral out of control, with one of the men – Tommy (Thomas Larsen) – drinking way too much.
The film Another Round is undoubtedly good entertainment, but for those looking for a productivity or creativity boost, Skårderud originally made a light-hearted (and alcohol-inspired) point that he explained soon after the film's release.
But what if you could stick to the Another Round protocol - effectively microdosing small amounts of alcohol during work hours to improve performance? What would happen?
Microdosing with alcohol
Blood alcohol concentration is affected by many things, including the alcohol content of the drink, how quickly you drink, your gender, your body mass index, and the health of your liver. But 0,05% is roughly equivalent to a 70kg man drinking one pint (568ml) of 4% beer or a large glass (250ml) of wine.
Since alcohol is a toxin, the body works to excrete it through breath, sweat and urine, so it would be difficult to maintain a concentration of 0,05%. It would require regularly measured consumption throughout the day, meaning that the daily and weekly intakes per unit would quickly exceed the maximum recommended levels.
Low doses alcohol can have some positive effects. While the alcohol culture in countries like the UK can sometimes seem over the top, small amounts can add to the sociability, allowing people to create and maintain new friendships and professional networks.
Laboratory studies have shown that at low doses, the increase in relaxation and confidence that alcohol produces, and the loss of cognitive focus associated with mild intoxication, can lead to more creative and diverse problem-solving strategies, improved foreign language skills, sharper memory recall, and better ability to process certain types of information. In contrast, analytical problem-solving skills, such as those required in most workplaces, suffer at all levels of consumption.
If this all sounds good, before you even think about trying this experiment for yourself, remember that these were all controlled lab studies where single doses of alcohol were administered, and there are some questions about how relevant the tests and assessments are to the real world. of work.
The effects of alcohol
While there is individual variation, tolerance to the psychological and physiological effects of alcohol develops quickly, even at low doses, meaning more of the drug is needed over time to achieve the same effects.
Alcohol “microdosing” can become ineffective, or quickly turn into “macrodosing” of alcohol, requiring more drinking to maintain even higher blood alcohol concentrations. Not only is this expensive, but most employers will have workplace alcohol policies in place, with some safety-critical professions taking a zero-tolerance approach.
The disadvantages of regular alcohol are well known. It has been linked to a range of cancers, digestive diseases and other health and social harms to both the drinker and others.
There has long been academic debate about whether drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is good for your health and protects against conditions such as heart disease. Some researchers have proposed that there is a J-shaped relationship between the amount of alcohol consumed and some types of harm, with there being a "sweet spot" of consumption that is beneficial. But this idea is often promoted by the alcohol industry for commercial benefit, and is undermined by weak evidence. However, other researchers believe that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption — any amount is bad for your health.
Personal improvement through alcohol is not a new idea. The ancient Greeks particularly promoted wine as an aid to debate, poetry, and philosophical discussion, but perhaps wisely suggested a three-drink limit, as consuming more meant exceeding your personal capabilities.
Great figures of history – artists, writers, politicians, composers, scientists and industry leaders – have been famous drinkers. Churchill for example, would start the day with a whiskey and water and end with a few glasses of whiskey, champagne and a highball. But the creativity and success of remarkable people came despite their alcohol consumption. For those of us with more modest talents, alcohol consumption leads to a hangover and an empty wallet rather than a professional reward.