Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. In small amounts, it may appear to have stimulant effects. This would probably be due to it lowering inhibitions (where people are also more likely to indulge in risky behavior).
Alcohol effects are different per person and depend on a number of factors.
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* quantity of alcohol consumed
* age of person consuming alcohol
* weight of person consuming alcohol
* food in the stomach can slow the absorption rate
* tolerance level
The main psychoactive ingredient in alcoholic drinks is ethyl alcohol. Alcoholic drinks vary in strength from 1% up to 75% (or higher for some spirits). Alcohol is a legal drug in most countries around the world; however, it is very common for there to be age restrictions, as well as driving under the influence restrictions on alcohol.
What is a Standard Drink
A standard drink contains about 10 grams of 100% alcohol. Establishments that serve alcohol usually serve in standard drink sizes, with the exception of wine which is normally sold in 140 mL or 200 mL glasses. One 200 mL glass of wine contains approximately two standard drinks or units of alcohol.
Many people think that one beer is on unit of alcohol. This is not true; one 5% beer is actually 1.7 units of alcohol–a very important point to remember if you are in a zero tolerance position and think you can have 2 beers and wait two hours for it to clear your system. The general rule of thumb is one hour per unit of alcohol for your liver to metabolize it and remove it from your body. This is variable depending on the person, but that is the average. So two 5% alcohol beers would actually take almost 3 ½ hours to clear your system. Eight beers the night before would require approximately 13 ½ hours.
Short-term alcohol effects
The effects of alcohol consumption very from one person to the next; however, there is a reasonable relationship between concentrations of alcohol and the effects on a person.
Euphoria and a slight stimulant effect are generally the first alcohol effects a person will experience. Minor effects on a persons performance can also be measured even with very small concentrations of alcohol in the system. In a person of average build and physical fitness, one unit of alcohol will raise their blood alcohol content by 0.01 – 0.03% in one hour. Alcohol will be broken down at about the same rate. For example, one hour per unit of alcohol, or about 1.5 hours per full strength beer for the alcohol to be metabolized and removed from your system.
Alcohol Effects on Behavior by Blood Alcohol Content – BAC
0 to 0.05%
Talkative, relaxed, more confident
0.05 – 0.08%
Reduced inhibitions, talkative, feels self confident, movement impaired
0.08 – 0.15%
Slurred speech, unstable emotions, possible vomiting, slowed reflexes, balance impaired
0.15 – 0.30%
Possible loss of consciousness, loss of memory, difficulty breathing, unable to walk
0.30% – +
Long-term alcohol effects
Many people know that alcohol abuse damages the liver, and this is correct. Excessive alcohol consumption also affects many organs in your body. Each year, a large number of people die from excessive alcohol consumption. Many more are hospitalized for some of the following conditions.:
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* heart damage
* high blood pressure and stroke
* liver damage
* cancers of the digestive system
* other digestive system disorders
* sexual impotence and reduced fertility
* increasing risk of breast cancer
* sleeping difficulties
* mental illness with mood and personality changes
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Someone who is physically dependent on alcohol might experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking or substantially reduce their intake. Symptoms usually commence 6-24 hours after the last drink, last for about 4 days and can include:
* Difficulty sleeping
In rare occasions, alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and lethal. People, who have been drinking heavily, should consult their doctor prior to stopping alcohol, if they feel they might suffer severe withdrawal symptoms.
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