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Alcohol

Alcohol is a drug. Alcohol affects people’s behaviour. When some people drink a large amount of alcohol, they feel relaxed, happy and sometimes feel ‘high’, but alcohol is actually a depressant. The brain tells us which is right and wrong in what we do, but when we drink, alcohol often affects the workings of the brain, making unclear which actions are right and wrong. The brain becomes ‘confused’. Alcohol also affects feelings, often making people not caring what they do or will do, which itself can be dangerous if it involves risky/unsafe actions.

Alcohol can also affect body coordination, i.e. walking, balancing, touching etc. Even a small amount of alcohol, e.g. a couple of glasses, can affect body coordination.

The liver in the body deals with the alcohol in the body. The liver then removes the alcohol through urine. Many people are not clear about units of alcohol. One unit is equivalent to a half pint of beer, one small glass of wine, one shot of spirits (e.g. whisky, vodka etc). The liver can only process one unit of alcohol per hour. This means the liver needs to work for one hour to remove the unit from the body. For example, if you drink 2 pints (which means 4 units of alcohol) your body will take 4 hours to remove the alcohol from your body.

That is why many people are caught drink driving after a ‘heavy’ night of drinking, even those who feel ‘sober’ in the morning.

Drinking too much will not only cause hangovers. ‘Chronic’ drinking (i.e. drinking constantly over a long period of time, for days or months) can cause serious damage, e.g. liver cirrhosis. The liver cells may struggle to cope with the alcohol, and may die. The dead cells may become hard. The liver may then shrink in size and become ‘damaged’. The liver is one of the most important organs to make sure the body works well. If the liver is partly or mostly damaged the person’s life is at risk.

Other problems that may be caused by heavy or constant drinking include:

  • Stomach ulcers
  • Vomiting
  • Gastro-intestinal complications. The term ‘Gastrointestinal’ covers the whole process of dealing with food and drink in the body including the oesophagus, stomach, bowel etc. Complications may arise, such as constipation, diarrhoea, etc.
  • Infertility (i.e. men finding difficult to get women pregnant as sperm is affected by alcohol, or women unable to get pregnant quickly because their eggs are affected by alcohol)
  • Risk of some cancers
  • Walking and balance being affected
  • Risk of getting overweight
  • High blood pressure
  • Risk of heart attacks
  • Feelings of things getting out of control
  • Slow and/or repeated signing i.e. communication skills are affected
  • Feelings of aggression, and anger
  • Argumentative behaviour
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • In serious cases, comas and perhaps death.

Drinking can be good and enjoyable as long as you are careful. If you want to drink, drink sensibly and in moderation. The UK Alcohol guidelines recommend that women drink no more than 2 or 3 units per day, and men no more than 3 to 4 units per day. The guidelines also recommend that people should not drink every day, but leave 2 or 3 days during the week free of alcohol.


Check out the other sections below...

Contraception
Contraception
Drugs
Drugs
Money Management
Money Management
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Volunteering
Volunteering
Skin Cancer and the Sun
Skin Cancer and the Sun
Smoking
Smoking
Alcohol
Alcohol
Diabetes
Diabetes
Obesity
Obesity