Alcohol is a big issue in the UK. Some start drinking too young, others drink too much. If you're going to drink, you should know about the effects and how it makes you feel. You should also prepare to meet the hangover...

Alcohol is one of the strongest mood-changing drugs in use today

What is it?

The alcohol that we drink is made by fermenting or distilling fruit, vegetables and grains. This is where it gets its distinctive flavours from. In its pure form ethyl alcohol is a clear, colourless liquid.

Alcohol is one of the strongest mood-changing drugs in use today.

How does it make you feel?

Alcohol can make you feel relaxed, cheerful and confident. But it is a depressant, which means it slows the function of the central nervous system.

Drinking too much is pretty unpleasant. The room spins, you get sick, slur your words and lose your memory. Some people get stroppy and aggressive.

The day after a drinking session you'll probably get a hangover. You might feel sick, thirsty, tired, washed out and a bit low.

What are the health effects?

The UK government has set guidelines on limits for healthy drinking. These are a maximum of 21 units a week for adult men (over 18 years), 14 a week for adult women. The limits are lower for under 18s. And remember the guidance is in relation to a whole week - drinking all your units at once (binge drinking) is definitely not healthy.

There is 1 unit to half a pint of weak beer and 2 units in the average alcopop.

Drinking alcohol increases your chances of having an accident of some sort. Or doing stuff you'd regret the next day. Stick with mates who will look out for you.

Alcohol is the most common date rape drug. Be wary of getting drunk with someone that you don't know very well. Alcohol can be addictive. If you drink regularly you will build up a tolerance to it and you'll need more and more to get the same effect. Then you get really nasty withdrawals when (and if) you stop.

Long-term drinking can damage your heart and your liver, and it really messes with your head.

The law

Alcohol is a legal drug, although under 18s are not allowed to buy it.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.


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