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A-Z of Drugs

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A-Z of drugs

 of Drugs

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Alcohol

 

Alcohol and the law

Use is legal; however,

  • It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to buy alcohol.  
  • It is illegal to supply someone under the age of 18 with alcohol.
  • It is an offence to give a child under the age of five alcohol.
  • 16 year olds can drink beer or cider (but not spirits) in a pub if they are having a meal.

What is alcohol?

Alcohol is a liquid drug that is extremely powerful and addictive.   All alcoholic drinks contain ethanol which is pure alcohol.   Alcohol consumption is measured in units and the strength of alcohol uses the term ABV (alcohol by volume) describes what percentage of total liquid is alcohol. 

What are the effects?

Alcohol is a depressant and in small amounts it can help you to relax and become more talkative.   In large amounts people slur their speech and become loud and annoying.   It can make some people happy and others upset or aggressive.  

The effects of alcohol also depend upon how quickly you drink it, whether you have eaten any food, your body weight and your mood before drinking.   For example, if you feel sad before drinking, alcohol may make you more depressed.

When do the effects start and how long do they last?

The effects start within about 5 -10 minutes of drinking and can last a few hours depending on how much you drink.   Stronger drinks like spirits and fizzy drinks like alcopops are absorbed quicker into the bloodstream therefore they take effect quicker.

What are the risks?  

If you drink too much you can pass out, be sick or both which can be very dangerous.   It can cause you to be depressed, anxious, angry and suicidal and can lead to memory loss.   It can cause alcohol poisoning, liver damage, stomach and pancreas disorders, high blood pressure, heart disease, brain damage and can increase the risk of some forms of cancer.

It is linked to social problems such as domestic violence and violent crimes.   Relationships can also suffer and if you drink more and more you will suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, trembling, delirium and anxiety.  

Women who drink increase their risk of developing breast cancer and if alcohol is consumed during pregnancy it can lead to birth defects.   In men too much alcohol can cause low testosterone levels, low sex drive, impotence and low sperm count.

The trend apparent in younger people is binge-drinking.   This is classified as drinking more than six units in six hours and can causer blood pressure to rise, which, according to the NHS, can increase your risk of suffering a stroke. Drinking too much alcohol lowers your inhibitions and users need to be careful not to end up in sexual situations that they wouldn't normally think about being in if they were sober.

Alcohol should never be mixed with any other drugs as it can lead to fatal overdoses.  

Is it addictive?

Alcohol is extremely addictive. Regular drinking can lead to a tolerance, meaning you need to drink more and more to get the same effect.  

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Stoke-on-Trent Drug and Alcohol Action Team, First Floor, Civic Centre, Glebe St, Stoke on Trent, ST4 1WR
Tel: 01782 235708 . Fax: 01782 235003 . E-mail: drugactionteam@stoke.gov.uk