Alcohol is a liquid produced by fermentation, which is the action of yeast on liquids containing sugars and starches. Pure alcohol has no colour or taste. Alcoholic drinks vary in colour and taste because of other ingredients that are added to them.
Alcohol is a depressant drug not a stimulant as many people think. Alcohol slows down activity in the central nervous system, which means it slows down the messages being sent between the brain and the body. Depressant drugs affect concentration and coordination, and slow a person's response time to unexpected situations.
In small quantities, depressants such as alcohol may cause people to become relaxed, feel more confident and lower their inhibitions. In larger quantities, depressants can cause unconsciousness and even death.
Tolerance and dependence
People who drink heavily usually develop a tolerance to alcohol. This means that they need to drink more to experience the same effect. As a result, some people can drink large amounts of alcohol without appearing to be intoxicated. However, the amount of alcohol consumed can still damage their health.
Long term effects
Heavy consumption of alcohol over a long period of time can cause damage to many parts of the body. Impairment of brain and liver functions can be permanent.
If a person who is physically dependent on alcohol suddenly stops drinking they will experience withdrawal symptoms because their body has to readjust to functioning without alcohol.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- loss of appetite
In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal may cause convulsions, cramps, vomiting, delusions, hallucinations and even death. A person considering withdrawing from alcohol should first consult a doctor or other health professional.
There are a number of alcohol treatment options available in Australia. While abstinence may be a suitable treatment aim for some people, many programs recognise that for others this may not be possible or realistic and tailor their treatment to meet the goals of the individual.
To assess your level of drinking, try our online alcohol use self-assessment.
Source of Information: DrugInfo Clearinghouse - Australian Drug Foundation
Alcohol information page by the DrugInfo Clearinghouse
DrugInfo Clearinghouse is a service provided by the Australian Drug Foundation. It functions as a drug prevention network providing information about alcohol, other drugs, and drug prevention. Their information page about alcohol includes its affects, withdrawal and treatment.
Alcohol information page by Headspace
Headspace is a youth friendly, community based health service for young people aged 12 - 25 and their families. Their page on alcohol includes information about alcohol's effects, how to control drinking and identifying when there is a problem.
Alcohol fact sheets by Reach Out!
Reach Out! is a web based service that provides information, support and interactive features to help young people get through tough times. The alcohol fact sheets by Reach Out! provide information around whether you’re drinking safely, how you can help a friend and what to do if you’re worried about your use or a friend’s use of alcohol.
Alcohol and your health fact sheets by the Department of Health
An alcohol information site has been developed by the Federal Department of Health. A link to their page lists many different fact sheets concerning alcohol and your health.
Helping someone who is not ready to change their behaviour can be difficult particularly when the decision for them to get help is ultimately theirs.
If you do approach the person you are concerned about, there are several things you may want to consider before doing so.
Be informed - It is a good idea to have a general knowledge of some of the reasons why people drink alcohol to excess, and how they can drink at a low risk level.
Discuss alcohol issues openly - Letting the person you are concerned about know that you are open to listening to them without being judgmental. This may encourage them to discuss their alcohol use with you.
Talk about low risk drinking - Some people may not consider their drinking is high risk. Provide the person you are concerned about with information on low risk drinking.
Speak to a counsellor yourself first - Speaking with an organisation who specialises in alcohol and drug issues and treatment may be helpful for working out how best to approach your concerns.
Reference - Reach Out! website
alcohol.gov.au - Federal Department of Health
This alcohol info site has been developed by the Federal Department of Health. The site provides info and fact sheets about alcohol-related health issues and Australian Government policy.
DrugInfo Clearinghouse - Australian Drug Foundation
DrugInfo Clearinghouse is a service provided by the Australian Drug Foundation. It functions as a drug prevention network providing information about alcohol, other drugs, and drug prevention.
A community based service for people aged 12 - 25 and their families, Headspace provides help for issues including health, education, work, mental health and drug & alcohol use.
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC)
NDARC conducts research and related activities that increases the effectiveness of Australian and international treatment and intervention responses to alcohol and other drug related harm.
An initiative of the Inspire Foundation, Reach Out! is a web based service that provides information, support and interactive features to help young people get through tough times.