Healthy Body

Alcohol

Alcohol is by far the most commonly used and abused drug in Ireland. It is also widely enjoyed and is frequently associated with celebrations and with social events. Moderate consumption of alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Remember what you granny said: Everything in moderation!

Some of the frequently asked questions about alcohol are:

What is alcohol?

It's a depressant drug that slows down functions of the body, both mental and physical. This explains why your reactions aren't as fast when you've been drinking, why your inhibitions can lessen and why your speech can become slurred. Alcohol exaggerates mood. If you were feeling down, aggressive, hyper before this will probably only be magnified once you start drinking.

If I don't mix my drinks will I be ok?

In whatever form you drink it, alcohol has a similar effect on your body. Those who think they will be all right if they stick to beer or cider and avoid spirits are wrong. It's all alcohol.

What causes a hangover?

Your body's instinct when it encounters alcohol is to flush it out. This causes dehydration. Alcohol also irritates the lining of the stomach and this causes the nausea and vomiting that comes with having too much. If you pace your intake and drink lots of non-alcoholic drinks as well during your night out, you can help to avoid unpleasantness in the morning.

What's too much alcohol?

In Ireland, a standard drink is 10 grams of alcohol. This amount is normally contained in a half pint of beer, a small glass of wine, a glass of sherry, or a pub measure of spirits.

Up to 14 standard drinks a week is considered a low health risk for most women and 21 standard drinks per week is considered a low health risk for most men. This is a guide, not a target.

Binge drinking is having more than six to seven standard drinks in one go. Studies have shown that this is very risky.

Drinking to excess occasionally does greater harm to your health than just drinking a little bit regularly. If women consistently drink more than two standard drinks a day, or if men drink more than three standard drinks a day, the health risks start to accumulate.

How do you know you're drinking too much?

You don't have to be an alcoholic to have alcohol start to cause problems in your life. If you recognise some of the following as applying to you, you may be developing a dependence on alcohol.

  • Drinking to conquer problems, feelings of anxiety, loneliness, shyness etc.
  • Regular binge drinking. Regularly drinking over the recommended amount.
  • Once you start drinking, you find it hard to stop, even if you don't drink that much usually.
  • Being secretive about your drinking
  • Blackouts (memory loss)
  • Feeling guilty about your drinking. Regrets the next day.
  • Drinking is starting to disrupt aspects of your life: relationships, work, family, finances, college, health, behaviour

Information and support is available if you want it. See our links for more information.

Guidelines for a good night out:

  • Drink on a belly full of hearty food. Think pastas, potatoes, rice, bread.
  • Don't rush it ? the organ formerly known as your liver needs alcohol to be paced
  • Don't mix it ? make up your mind, stick with one kind
  • Think water. Drink water. All throughout the night.
  • Avoid drinking games

For further Information:

Alcoholics Anonymous
www.alcoholicsanonymous.ie
Health Promotion
www.healthpromotion.ie
Drink Aware
www.drinkaware.ie