Project 6

Alcohol Effects

Alcohol Effects

What is alcohol?

Alcohol is a sedative hypnotic drug that depresses the central nervous system, making you feel more relaxed.Most adults in the UK drink alcohol moderately and on a social basis and derive a lot of pleasure from doing so.

However, about one in five men and one in seven women regularly drink more than the Department of Health suggests is strictly safe for good health. This is up to two to three units of alcohol a day for women and up to three to four units of alcohol a day for men, to a maximum of 14 units a week for women and 21 units a week for men. A unit of alcohol is equivalent to half a pint of ordinary strength beer, a small glass of wine or a single pub measure of spirits.

Short-term effects of alcohol

The short-term effects of alcohol are dependent on the amount consumed and can vary enormously from person to person and from one situation to another.

The main effect is on the brain, which can result in:

  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Unsteadiness when standing or walking
  • Impaired attention and judgement
  • Loss of inhibition
  • Sleep

Relatively low doses of alcohol relax the user, make them more talkative and animated. Larger doses lead to uncoordinated movement, impaired decision-making and sedation.

The depressive effects of alcohol on normal brain function - especially those causing impaired judgement - are the main reasons it's always best to avoid alcohol when driving and never to exceed the limit.

Long-term effects of alcohol

The cumulative effects of excessive alcohol consumption, especially when associated with a poor diet, affect every part of the body. The two main sites of damage are the liver and the nervous system.

The liver may become progressively damaged through a condition known as cirrhosis, which may lead to liver failure, liver cancer and death.

The nervous system may be damaged at many levels. Damage to the brain can interfere with intellectual function, and increase the risk of anxiety and depression, confusion and dementia.

Damage to the peripheral nervous system can lead to loss of balance, impotence, numbness of the feet and hands, tremor and blindness.

Alcoholism is also implicated in diabetes, inflammation of the pancreas, internal bleeding, weakening of the heart, high blood pressure and stroke. Alcohol intake during pregnancy is harmful to an unborn baby.

Symptoms of alcohol addiction

When someone becomes dependent or addicted to alcohol, they:

  • Develop a strong sense of compulsion to drink
  • May drink shortly after waking to reduce feelings of alcohol withdrawal
  • Develop a reduced capacity to control how often and how much they use
  • Organise their lifestyle around drinking

Advice and support

NHS

If possible you should initially raise any concerns you have with your local GP at your local surgery. If you do not have a GP please:

Project 6, Keighley
A free service providing a range of personalised, integrated services for those concerned about their own drinking or the drinking of a friend or family member.

  • Tel:01535 610180
  • www.project6.org.uk
  • 11-19 Temple Street, Keighley, BD21 2AD

Frank

A confidential helpline for straight-up, unbiased information about drugs or alcohol. Lines are open 24 hours a day. All calls from the UK are free.

Alcoholics Anonymous

If you're having trouble with your drinking, you may be interested to know more about Alcoholics Anonymous. The confidential helpline is open 24 hours a day (calls charged at the local rate).

Drinkaware

Drinkaware aims to increase awareness and understanding of the role of alcohol in society, enabling individuals to make informed choices about their drinking.

Are you addicted to alcohol?

Here is a short questionnaire to evaluate your use of alcohol. The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, or AUDIT, has been developed by the World Health Organisation and is used by doctors to assess the extent to which a patient is likely to need to make some changes in their drinking to avoid health problems.

The AUDIT questionnaire

1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?

  • Never (0)
  • Monthly or Less (1)
  • 2-4 times a month (2)
  • 2-3 times a week (3)
  • 4 or more times a week (4)

2. How many drinks containing alcohol do you have on a typical day when you are drinking?

  • 1 or 2 (0)
  • 3 or 4 (1)
  • 5 or 6 (2)
  • 7-9 (3)
  • 10 or more (4)

3. How often do you have 6 or more drinks on an occasion when you are drinking?

  • Never (0)
  • Less than monthly (1)
  • Monthly (2)
  • Weekly (3)
  • Daily or almost daily (4)

4. How often during the past year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started?

  • Never (0)
  • Less than monthly (1)
  • Monthly (2)
  • Weekly (3)
  • Daily or almost daily (4)

5. How often during the past year have you failed to do what was normally expected of you because of drinking?

  • Never (0)
  • Less than monthly (1)
  • Monthly (2)
  • Weekly (3)
  • Daily or almost daily (4)

6. How often during the past year have you needed a first drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?

  • Never (0)
  • Less than monthly (1)
  • Monthly (2)
  • Weekly (3)
  • Daily or almost daily (4)

7. How often during the past year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?

  • Never (0)
  • Less than monthly (1)
  • Monthly (2)
  • Weekly (3)
  • Daily or almost daily (4)

8. How often during the past year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?

  • Never (0)
  • Less than monthly (1)
  • Monthly (2)
  • Weekly (3)
  • Daily or almost daily (4)

9. Have you or has someone else been injured as a result of your drinking?

  • No (0)
  • Yes, but not in the past year (2)
  • Yes, during the past year (4)

10. Has a relative, friend, or a doctor or other health care worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested you cut down?

  • No (0)
  • Yes, but not in the past year (2)
  • Yes, during the past year (4)

How did you do?

If you scored eight or more, it may be worth consulting your doctor or an alcohol advice and information service such as Project 6 on 01535 610180 to talk about your drinking.

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