Alcohol is an everyday part of life for many people. Here's our guide to the effects, the risks and the law surrounding booze.
Alcohol is produced by fermenting fruits, vegetables or grains. It is found in drinks like beer, lager, wine and cider, and spirits such as whiskey or gin. Alcoholic drinks range in strength and are measured as a percentage (%) per volume. The higher the percentage, the stronger the effect.
What are the effects of drinking alcohol?
- Over 90% of British men and 86% of women enjoy a drink. For most people, alcohol has a relaxing effect and helps them feel more sociable.
- It can become a problem for some when they drink as a way of blotting out difficult or troubling issues in their lives.
- In increasing quantities, speech can become slurred, co-ordination affected and emotions heightened.
- The intensity of the effects depends on the strength of the alcoholic drink, plus the rate and amount consumed.
- Other factors that influence the effects of alcohol include the weight of the drinker, their mood and surroundings and how recently they ate.
- Hangovers make you feel ill for a period of time, usually hours but sometimes even for days.
What are the risks of drinking alcohol?
- Alcohol is a depressant drug. If you're feeling down, it will make you feel worse.
- A regular, long term drinking habit can lead to physical as well as psychological dependency.
- Tolerance can develop, which means you need more to get the same effect.
- A long term, heavy drinking habit may cause serious damage to internal organs. It can also cause skin problems, trembling (the shakes), obesity, brain damage, mood swings and personality changes.
- Getting very drunk can lead to loss of consciousness. Users then have a slight risk of choking to death on their own vomit.
- Drinking too much can lead to alcohol poisoning. This can kill, although it is fairly rare.
Alcohol and the law
It is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under 18 (unless they're 16-17 and eating a meal in a restaurant). The legal limit for driving in the UK is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. The number of drinks it takes to reach this level varies from person to person. Safety experts advise people not to drink at all if they are going to drive.
If you are planning on drinking:
Men who drink more than half to two pints of beer or three glasses of wine a day run the risk of serious health problems and women should not exceed a pint or a couple of glasses of wine per day. However, experts now warn that drinking every day can also cause health problems and recommend at least three booze-free days in each week.
Mixing alcohol with other drugs is seriously dangerous. This is because drink slows down the nervous system (which controls your heart and breathing rate). Combined with other depressant drugs, it could see the body shut down altogether.
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