Alcohol Fact sheet
Why people drink
Alcohol is a drug that is legal in most countries. The age in which the use/sale of alcohol becomes legal depends on the culture and country. People may drink alcohol for many reasons. Some of these may include to:
• Socialise with friends
• Have fun
• Relieve boredom
• Forget worries or problems
It is not uncommon for young people to experiment with alcohol. Experimentation does not necessarily lead to problem use. If you are concerned about someone's alcohol use it may be helpful to speak with The Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS). ADIS specialise in drug and alcohol issues. The "More Information" section below has the contact numbers for each state. It may also be helpful to calmly talk with the person you are concerned about. Engaging them in a confrontational way may only alienate them.
The effects of alcohol
Like other drugs the affects of alcohol may vary from person to person. Some of the factors that may influence how an individual may be affected by alcohol may include:
• How much they have had to drink
• How quickly they have drunk the alcohol
• Whether they have mixed other drugs
• How regularly they drink
• Their mood when they are drinking
• Their age, sex and body weight
• Their general health and nutrition
• Whether they have been eating as well as drinking
• If they have been binge drinking. Binge drinking means that you have been drinking heavily over a short period of time or drinking constantly over a number of days or weeks.
Drinking alcohol increases the likelihood of acting in a violent way. Violence is not OK and if you are becoming violent when you drink it may be a good idea to look at how you can manage your alcohol use.
Alcohol is a depressant drug meaning it slows the time it takes to respond to things. Alcohol has the ability to affect your co-ordination and judgement. When drunk in small amounts it may make you feel more relaxed, however, taken in larger amounts it may cause you to vomit or pass out.
Some of the other more immediate effects of alcohol may include:
• Feeling more confident
• Feeling sleepy
• Losing balance or feeling dizzy
Alcohol may also have longer term effects if drunk over a period of time and may cause physical ill health. Some of the physical ill health includes liver damage, hallucinations, memory loss or stomach damage. Alcohol may also cause you to feel moody or anxious and may result in tense relationships with family and friends.
Mixing drinks or alcohol with other drugs
Mixing different alcoholic drinks may increase the speed in which you become drunk and may mean you take more risks.
Mixing alcohol with stimulants can be dangerous. The effects of alcohol may be hidden by the effects of the stimulant which may cause you to feel less drunk than you are. This may mean you take more risks, and put yourself in danger. For more information about what stimulants are check out the drugs fact sheet.
Mixing alcohol with other depressant drugs like cannabis may be dangerous as both cause your body reactions to slow down and increase the likelihood of passing out or overdosing. Check out the drugs fact sheet for more information about depressants.
Drinking and pregnancy
It is recommended that when you are pregnant that you don't drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol may not be safe for your baby. Your doctor can give you more information about pregnancy and the effects of alcohol.
Drinking and driving or operating machinery
Alcohol may increase your confidence and reduce your judgement, concentration and reaction time. Drink driving laws for each Australian State vary according to the state. The transport authority in your state should be able to let you know the legal limits. It is a good idea to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery when you have been drinking alcohol as it may be difficult to judge how much alcohol puts you at or over the legal limit. If you know you are drinking try to make other arrangements for getting home. You may catch a taxi, designate a non-drinking driver or make plans to stay overnight.
A standard drink has 10 grams of pure alcohol. Knowing how many standard drinks you are having may help you in managing your alcohol use. Different types of alcoholic drinks contain different amounts of pure alcohol. The following are examples of standard drinks:
• 285ml glass of beer (a middy/pot/handle)
• 100ml glass of table wine
• 10ml of spirits (1 nip)
It may be helpful to remember that alcohol is not always served as standard drinks.
If you are drinking alcohol it is a good idea to know its effects and how to use it responsibly. Some things you may consider to help make alcohol use safer include:
• Do not mix alcohol and other drugs - See the drugs fact sheet for more information.
• Eat food prior to and while drinking alcohol
• Finish each drink, don't top it up, so that you know how much you have had.
• Put down your drink between sips
• Know your limits - what may be OK for others may not be OK for you
• Between alcoholic drinks have a non alcoholic drink
• Do not drink and drive or operate heavy machinery
• Stay with people you know and trust
• Don't drink and go swimming
• Carry condoms - The effects of alcohol may make you more relaxed and confident which may increase the likelihood of having sex. If you are having sex, use a condom to avoid contacting HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted infections.
Is your drinking becoming a problem? It is not uncommon to drink alcohol
occasionally however you may have a problem with your alcohol use if you
• Neglecting school/work tasks
• Getting into hassles at school/work/home
• Feeling hung over in the mornings
• Thinking about drinking a lot during the day
• Feeling edgy
• Drinking more alcohol than intended
• Finding that you need to drink more to get the same effect
It may be helpful to make a list of all the "good" and "less good" things about drinking and to work out how much money is spent on alcohol each week. If you are not happy with the result you may need to manage your alcohol intake better. Check out the section below for suggestions for doing this.
Managing alcohol intake
Managing your alcohol use may be difficult. If you reduce your alcohol use you may still crave for it for sometime afterwards. Try not to be too hard on yourself if you don't reach your immediate goal. Having to try several times may be part of reducing your use and it is important you keep trying. It may be helpful to have someone you can talk to. This may be a friend, a family member, doctor or a counsellor.
Thanks to www.reachout.com.au and Ted Noffs Foundation for their information