What is alcohol?
Alcohol is a drug. It is a depressant drug.
Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream and quickly affects the central nervous system. It affects concentration and coordination, and slows the person's response time to unexpected situations.
In small quantities alcohol can cause people to become relaxed and lower their inhibitions. They feel more confident and often act in a more extroverted manner. In larger quantities alcohol can lead to unconsciousness and even death.
Effects of alcohol
Alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the stomach and the small intestine. Food in the stomach slows down the rate at which alcohol is absorbed, but does not prevent intoxication or drunkenness. The liver breaks down about 91 per cent of alcohol, and a small amount leaves the body in urine, sweat and the breath. The liver can only work at a fixed rate, getting rid of about three-quarters of a standard drink an hour. Sobering up takes time, and cold showers, exercise, black coffee, fresh air or vomiting will not speed up the process. Someone who drinks a lot at night may still have a high concentration of alcohol in their bloodstream the following day.
After a few drinks the person may feel more relaxed, have reduced concentration and slower reflexes.
After a few more drinks, they may have fewer inhibitions, more confidence, reduced coordination, slurred speech and intense moods (for example, sad, happy, angry).
If the person continues to drink they may experience confusion, blurred vision and poor muscle control.
Continuing to drink may result in nausea, vomiting and sleep.
Consuming more alcohol could possibly result in coma or death.
There is no specific definition for binge drinking and the term is not encouraged despite its common use in the community. However it can be described as drinking heavily with the intention to become intoxicated.
Binge drinking is harmful because it results in immediate and severe intoxication. As well as health risks, this can lead people to take risks and put themselves in dangerous situations.
Heavy consumption of alcohol over a long period of time can cause damage to many parts of the body. Impairment of brain and liver functions can be permanent. If the person’s diet is also poor, this can further affect their health. Emotional difficulties, such as depression and relationship problems, are also likely.
Possible long-term health effects include:
- Lip, oral and pharyngeal cancer
- Oesophageal cancer
- Liver cancer
- Breast cancer
- Hypertensive diseases
- Ischemic heart disease
- Ischemic stroke
- Haemorrhagic stroke
- Cirrhosis of liver
Excessive alcohol use can affect other areas of a person's life, including family, work and personal relationships.
- Family problems:
- Work problems:
- Legal problems:
Tolerance and dependence
Regular drinkers will develop a tolerance to alcohol. This means that they need to drink more to experience the same effect.
People who regularly drink heavily may become dependent on alcohol. Dependence can be psychological or physical, or both.
If a person who is physically dependent on alcohol suddenly stops drinking they will experience withdrawal symptoms because their body has to readjust to functioning without alcohol.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- loss of appetite
In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal may cause convulsions, cramps, vomiting, delusions, hallucinations and even death. A person considering withdrawing from alcohol should first consult a doctor or other health professional.
More information can be found at the following sites.