Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant which means it slows your heart rate and breathing. People using alcohol often feel more relaxed, outgoing, talkative and experience improved mood and confidence. Other effects include blackouts, feeling drowsy, confused and nauseous. It can also reduce your inhibitions and affect judgement.
If used regularly and/or to excess, drinking alcohol can lead to dependency.
Alcohol can affect levels of dopamine and serotonin (brain chemicals involved in mood, appetite and sleep) and can leave you feeling anxious as the effects wear off, this can last hours or days after drinking. It can also affect your sleeping pattern and quality of sleep leaving you feel unrested, negatively impacting your mental health.
There are long term impacts of frequent use of alcohol including problems with memory or dementia and dementia, damage to the gut, heart disease, liver damage and cancer.
Below are some tips for reducing the harm from alcohol:
- If somebody is dependent on alcohol they should not stop drinking suddenly as sudden alcohol withdrawal can be fatal. Try a gradual reduction in drinking.
- Plan ahead, make sure you have enough money and options to get home safely.
- Have a meal and stay hydrated before drinking, try to drink water between alcoholic drinks to avoid dehydration, this can also reduce the negative effects the next day.
- Avoid mixing alcohol with medications and drugs as this can have dangerous effects, take time to research your medications or health conditions.
- Use a measuring cup or spirit measure to accurately dose alcohol.
- Alcohol can cause nausea and vomiting, you should sleep on your side to avoid choking on vomit in their sleep.
- Think about safe sex and consent.
- Always make sure you are sober and well rested before driving.
- Call 999 and ask for an ambulance if you see signs on an overdose: confusion, unconsciousness, severe nausea and vomiting, fitting, difficulty breathing, blue/grey tinging of knees, hands and lips, slow or erratic pulse, pale, cold and clammy skin.
Use the alcohol units & calories calculator below to find out how many units are in a particular drinks or to check how much you’re drinking.