Many people drink alcohol without knowing much about it or what it does to their bodies. Get yourself clued up about alcohol by reading our guide.
Alcohol And The Brain
Although alcohol can initially make you feel confident and happy, it makes you depressed after its effects wear off. Alcohol makes your brain work differently by slowing down the central nervous system and altering the GABA neurotransmitter. When GABA is messed up, it leads to drops in serotonin levels, making people feel anxious and depressed.
Drinking large amounts of alcohol can seriously affect your quality of life by causing long term brain damage. Heavy, long-term drinking can cause alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) when prolonged drinking causes the brain’s shape and structure to change. This is down to reduced vitamin B1 and alcohol toxicity. Symptoms include mood swings, a changed personality, confusion, forgetfulness, and impulsiveness.
Heavy drinking increases the possibility of getting dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. If you drink as a young adult, this ups your chances of getting early-onset dementia.
Alcohol can severely impact your mental health. We’re not just talking about feeling slightly low the morning after drinking. Alcohol can cause depression, anxiety, mood swings and anger. Heavy drinking can lead to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, hallucinations, and challenging personality disorders on the more extreme level.
Alcohol And Physical Health
Drinking low levels of alcohol won’t affect your physical health. But if you drink large amounts of alcohol (over many years or a shorter period), it can cause problems. Alcohol causes vomiting, slurred speech, irregular breathing, alcohol poisoning, dull skin and hair, lack of energy, headaches and stomach cramps. Your coordination and balance can be affected in the short term, leading to falls and accidents.
If you’re a heavy drinker, alcohol can cause severe long term physical effects. These include liver disease, liver cancer, stroke, heart attack, bowel cancer, mouth cancer and pancreatitis. The worst cases of alcohol abuse can lead to death and brain damage.
UK’s chief medical officers advise men and women to drink a maximum of 14 units of alcohol a week. This translates to six pints of lager or beer or six medium glasses of wine, ideally spaced out over three days.
Binge drinking is drinking lots of alcohol over a short space of time. Your liver can only break down one unit of alcohol per hour. Drinking between three to four units per hour is too much, so it’s important to keep tabs on your drinking, or you could be at risk of alcohol poisoning. Keep track of the alcohol content of your drinks, so you don’t exceed your recommended units. Beer strength can vary from 3% to 6%, and wines measure between 11% and 13%.
There were 7,423 deaths in England and Wales in 2020 due to alcohol abuse, the highest figure in 20 years. 80% of deaths were due to an alcohol-related disease, 10% were due to mental health conditions caused by alcohol, and 6% were from alcohol poisoning. The number of men who died from alcohol-related causes was double the number of women.
Alcohol played a factor in 24,000 deaths in the UK in 2017.
20 people die every day in the UK due to alcohol abuse.
200,000 children in the UK live with a parent who has a drinking problem.
It costs the NHS £3.5 billion every year to treat alcohol problems in England.
It’s estimated that there are 600,000 alcoholics in the UK.
Alcoholism doesn’t just severely impact individuals and their families. It affects society through alcohol-related crime and violence and lost days at work due to alcohol- related illnesses. The estimated social cost of alcohol is £21 billion per year.
Alcohol And The Law
It’s against the law for anyone under 18 to buy alcohol. This covers supermarkets, online, off licences and pubs or restaurants. You can drink alcohol at 18 in various premises, but some shops won’t sell alcohol to people who look under 21.
What about driving and the law? Don’t drink alcohol if you’re planning on driving. It’s against the law to drive if you have more than 80mg per 100mg of blood in your body. Order a taxi or get a sober friend to give you a lift home if you want to drink.
The official name for the type of alcohol you find in drinks is ethanol. Other types of alcohol, such as methanol and butanol, found in counterfeit drinks are both illegal and highly dangerous. Fake alcohol can cause blindness, serious liver failure and death. You can often tell if you’re buying counterfeit alcoholic drinks. The labels and packaging are shoddy and sold at odd places such as car boot sales.
Alcohol And Its Risks
Alcohol can impair people’s judgement, giving them the confidence to do things they wouldn’t normally do. This false confidence can lead people into dangerous situations due to a loss of awareness.
Alcohol misuse leads to people losing items such as keys, wallets and phones, making them more vulnerable than if they were sober.
Excessive drinking can lead people to have unsafe sex or engage in risky sexual activity, and incidents of alcohol-related violence increase.
Slang Names For Alcohol
People often use slang terms for alcohol when they want to mask their drinking or fit in. Young people will often use slang to describe alcohol. In 2016, 46% of girls and 43% of boys aged between 11- and 15-years old had tried alcohol.
Everyday slang or street names include booze, brewski, giggle juice, poison, hooch, firewater and sauce but new names pop up all the time.
Where To Get Help If You Have An Alcohol Problem
If you suspect you have a problem with alcohol or are concerned about a friend or family member, some places can help. Visit your GP for advice. They can refer you to local services and support services. Join a local support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to gain support from other people struggling with addiction.
You can also contact private alcohol rehab clinics, such as those run by Rehab Clinics Group. These are specialist treatment centres that provide alcohol detox, rehab, counselling and aftercare to help people live a life free from alcohol.