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Alcohol is a drug that slows down parts of your brain. Drinking alcohol can make you feel more relaxed. It can also make it harder to think clearly, make good decisions and do various tasks.
Alcohol is made by fermenting (and sometimes distilling) fruits, vegetables or grains. Alcohol itself is a clear liquid. The color in beer, spritzers, wine and other alcoholic drinks comes from other ingredients and from the process of fermentation.
Most adults drink alcohol, and do so responsibly. But because alcohol is a drug, there may be risks if you drink any amount of alcohol. In 2005, about two-thirds (62%) of all students (grade 7—12) reported drinking at least once in the past year. This is about 603,400 students. One in 10 students (10%) drank alcohol once a week.
Alcohol and its effects
Yes, alcohol can be addictive. About one person in 20 who drinks is dependent on alcohol. People with an addiction may have difficulty stopping by themselves, even if they want to, and even if other negative effects (such as financial or other personal problems) begin to outweigh the positive effects. Alcohol dependence can also cause major problems with friends, family, school, work, emotional and mental health, the law and money!
Each of these drinks contains the same amount of alcohol (a "standard drink" or 13.6 grams of alcohol):
Alcohol is found in different amounts in different kinds of drinks. For example:
An average adult can eliminate from the body (mostly through urine) about two-thirds of one standard drink per hour (10 grams of alcohol). If that person has two standard drinks, it will take about three hours for his or her body to be free of alcohol again. If you get drunk, only time can make you sober again.
Alcohol may slow your reflexes, movement and thinking. ?For a short time, alcohol can make you feel:
Alcohol can make some people aggressive. For others, drinking can depress them or make them more depressed. When people are intoxicated (drunk), they may:
Yes. People who often drink a lot for a period of time, or binge (five or more drinks on one occasion), may feel bad and even experience serious physical effects when they stop drinking or cut down.
These are called withdrawal symptoms.
It depends. How quickly you get drunk, and how long it will take you to get sober, depend on:
Remember: It's the amount of alcohol you drink that affects you—not the type of drink. It doesn't matter whether you drink beer, coolers, wine or liquor.
The dangers and the law
Yes, alcohol can be dangerous in a number of ways. Too much alcohol can cause a hangover (headache, feeling sick, shakiness and vomiting). Too much alcohol can also cause alcohol poisoning and even death.
For pregnant women, there is no known safe level of drinking. A woman who drinks during pregnancy is more likely to have a miscarriage, to have the baby born too early, to have the baby born dead, or to have other problems.
A baby may be born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). This means the baby may have physical abnormalities, behavior problems and other difficulties. A woman who is pregnant, or planning to have a baby, should talk to her doctor about alcohol and other drugs.
If a woman is breastfeeding, alcohol can be passed to her baby through the milk. This may affect the baby's feeding, its sleep and how it develops. If the mother does drink, she should feed the baby or pump breast milk before she drinks. If you are in this situation, talk to your doctor.
People who drink heavily for a long time have more chance of:
You may have heard that alcohol is good for the heart. What you may not have heard is that the health benefits of alcohol apply mainly to people over the age of 45 years, and that in most cases, a drink every other day is enough. For young people, there are no known health benefits from drinking alcohol.
People who don't drink now shouldn't start drinking to try to get health benefits. ?They are better off eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking.
Yes. Alcohol and other drugs don't mix. Mixing alcohol with other drugs can even be fatal! If you mix marijuana or club drugs (e.g., ecstasy, ketamine, GHB) with alcohol, it makes it harder to make smart decisions. This means you are more likely to get into dangerous situations, to be injured or to injure someone else.
If you mix alcohol with some medicines—either those prescribed by your doctor or some over-the-counter medicines (like cough and cold medicines, and aspirin)—your body may react violently. You may have cramps or headaches or may vomit. Some combinations can stop your breathing. It is especially dangerous to mix alcohol and other drugs (such as marijuana) with driving.
If you've been drinking alcohol, stimulant drugs (e.g., caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines) can trick you into thinking you're sober—but you're not. You may feel more awake, but really you're still impaired—and you will be until the alcohol leaves your system.
About 6,700 people die each year as a result of drinking alcohol—due to car crashes, other accidents, suicides and murders, and health problems related to alcohol use.
Almost one-third (29%) of grade 7-12 students reported that, during the past year, they had been a passenger in a car with a driver who had been drinking.
Reducing risks and getting help
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