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. You might also feel anxious or agitated or even a bit low the day after.

What are the health effects?

The UK government has recently changed the limits for regular safer drinking. These are a maximum of 14 units a week for adult men and women (over 18 years). The limits are lower for under 18s. If you do drink as much as 14 units per week then it is advised to do this evenly over 3 or more days. The guidelines have been changed because we understand the long term health risks of alcohol better now. So there is no longer a ‘safe’ level of drinking but more a ‘low level risk’ that is advised.

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

Binge drinking is definitely not healthy either and can lead to loss of self control and getting into risky situations which could lead to injury or worse. It also means you're more likely to do stuff you'd regret the next day. Stick with mates who will look out for you, limit the amount you drink in one occasion, don’t drink on an empty stomach and alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks.

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, can increase the risk of some cancers, 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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