Alcohol Category: Sedatives
Also called: booze, drink, bevy, scoops, gargle, cans.
How it’s used
Alcohol is a liquid you drink. It acts as a sedative (‘downer’) and a depressant (slows your brain). A standard drink is called a unit and contains about 10 g of pure alcohol. One unit = ½ pint of beer, lager or cider, a single measure of spirits, 1 alco-pop bottle or a small glass of wine. Since 2009, the weekly safe limits are 11 units for women and 17 units for men.
- Alcohol can start to affect you within 5 - 10 minutes and last for several hours, depending on the amount you drink
- It exaggerates your mood, so if you were happy you feel happier but if you were feeling low it could make you feel worse
- It relaxes you
- You may lose your inhibitions and do things you wouldn’t do sober
- It slows your reactions and affects your coordination so you are more likely to have an accident
- It affects your judgment so you may make unsafe choices
- You may become aggressive or even violent
- As you become drunk, your speech slurs, you may have double vision, flushed face and vomiting
- Risk of damage to your liver, heart, stomach, brain and other organs
- Alcohol poisoning – when your body has a toxic reaction against too much drinking
- Black-outs – when you lose consciousness or can’t remember what you did while drunk
- Family and social problems such as divorce, money problems, violence and crime
- Depression and risk of suicide
- You are more likely to be involved in an accident
- You can die if you lose consciousness after a drinking session and choke on your own vomit
- The risks of alcohol increase when you combine it with other drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methadone and benzodiazepine
- As you lose your inhibitions, you may have unsafe sex. This could lead to unplanned pregnancy, a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or put you at risk of sexual assault.
If you are pregnant
There is no safe level of alcohol in pregnancy. If you drink heavily while you are pregnant this can cause Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, which means your baby could be born small and with birth defects.
If you drink too much you can become addicted to alcohol physically, so your body craves it, and psychologically, so you find it hard to cope with life without a drink.
Withdrawal from alcohol can cause tremors, nausea, hot and cold sweats, anxiety and depression.
How long does it stay in your system?
Alcohol will show up in a urine test for 1-2 days. (The length of time depends on the test used, the amount you drink, if you have other medical conditions and your own metabolism. Please use this figure as a guide only).
What help is available?
Self-help support such as Alcoholics Anonymous
- Counselling or psychotherapy
- Complementary therapies such as acupuncture
- Support from your doctor to help you reduce, withdraw or stay off drink
- Residential treatment programmes
- One to one or group family support such as Alanon and Alateen
- Contact the Drugs Helpline 1800 459 459 to find out about options in your area