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How Alcohol Affects Your Body

Alcohol is the most widely used LEGAL drug in the world. But what is it exactly?

There are different types of alcohol. Alcoholic drinks contain the chemical ethanol. This is a by-product of the fermentation process. When yeast or bacteria react with the sugars in food - the by-products are ethanol and carbon dioxide.

*Photo credit –

There are different types of alcohol. Different alcohol contains different amounts of ethanol – this is why some drinks are stronger than others.

Alcoholic drinks sometimes feel like a stimulant, but alcohol is actually a depressant. This means it slows down your central nervous system.

How does alcohol affect us?

It is important to understand how alcohol can affect our body – both positively and negatively. Understanding how alcohol affects us can help us maintain a healthier relationship with alcohol and stay safer when drinking.

Short Term Effects

There are several short term effects of alcohol. This can vary from person to person with many things impacting the effects of alcohol, e.g. how often and how much the person is drinking.

  • Hangover (dehydration which may lead to a headache, sickness, tiredness, no appetite and feeling low or emotional)

  • More sociable

  • Disturbed sleep

  • Increasing feelings of stress or anxiety

  • An impaired judgement (could lead to accidents and injuries)

  • Slurred speech

  • Increase sex drive

  • Blurred vision

  • Happy, sad or angry.

  • Memory loss or black-outs

  • Sickness or vomiting

Long Term Effects

There are a number of long term effects of drinking a large amount of alcohol over a number of years, Again this will vary from person to person but it is important to be aware you may be at increased risk of the following.

  • Damage to heart, liver and brain

  • Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety

  • Reproduction problems

  • Raised blood pressure

  • Stomach ulcers

  • Drinking regularly to excess can lead to relationship problems, problems at work and financial problems.

The Dreaded Hangover

Is there anything you can do to prevent it?

The main cause of a hangover is the effect of ethanol. It's a chemical that works in the body as a diuretic, which means it makes you pee more and you can become dehydrated as a result.

The only hangover cure is prevention, either through drinking moderately, or not at all.

*Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Alcohol Harm Reduction

If you do plan on drinking alcohol, here are some harm reduction tips to help keep you a little safer.

  • Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Food helps slow down the rate your body absorbs alcohol.

  • Try and drink plenty of water or soft drinks in between alcoholic drinks to avoid dehydration. It’s also good to drink water before bed and keeping a glass by the bed.

  • Never mix alcohol with other drugs.

  • Don’t leave a friend in trouble. Alcohol affects our judgement and might result in a friend ending up in a difficult or dangerous situation.

  • Make sure you know how you are getting home. Arrange a lift before you go out.

  • Never leave your drink unattended.

  • Carry condoms. Sexual health is everybody’s responsibility.

  • Only time will sober you up. It takes 1 hour for 1 unit to be fully broken down after you stop drinking. If you have drunk a bottle of wine with 12 units in it, it will take 12 hours to fully sober up after you have finished the bottle of wine.

For more information on alcohol, visit the alcohol information section on our website or our other alcohol blogs.

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