Alcohol is seen by many as a more socially acceptable drug; it is a relaxant, so in moderation, can reduce feelings of anxiety and inhibitions, making you feel more sociable. However, that is not to say it is not a powerful substance that can have serious impacts on health and wider social circumstances.
Alcohol misuse and hazardous drinking is when you consume alcohol in a way that can be harmful. This can be regularly drinking over the recommended daily limit, especially over a sustained period, and drinking too much in one session.
For most people, if you drink within the daily and weekly recommendations that’s ok. But for some, drinking can gradually get out of control and result either in regular binge drinking, hazardous and harmful drinking or dependence – which can have numerous implications upon our lives.
Key Alcohol Facts
- It takes your body one hour to process one unit of alcohol
- Psychological and physical dependence on alcohol can occur. Tolerance gradually increases, so the more you drink on a regular basis the more you will need to reach the same state
- Alcohol can contribute to a range of anti-social behaviours
- Long term excessive use of alcohol can cause illnesses such as liver damage, breast cancer, heart disease and stomach ulcers
- Serious over-indulgence can lead to alcohol poisoning which could put you in a coma or even kill you
- Your appearance may suffer if you drink too much. Not only is alcohol high in calories, making you gain weight, it has also been linked to premature skin ageing too
- As you get older the risks are greater. Your body is less able to process alcohol and you may find that the time it takes you to recover from a drinking session is longer than it was when you were younger
Long term and/or hazardous drinking can lead to a number of health impacts, some very serious and lasting. However, if you stop dangerous levels of consumption, your body can recover and get back to health.
The main physical damage alcohol causes is to the Liver – even slight damage, e.g. when a modest drinker drinks too much at a party, can take at least three days to recover from. Regular excessive drinking after a few years can result in a fatty liver; this is reversible, but you have to seriously cut down or abstain from drinking. The next stage of continued excessive drinking is alcohol hepatitis, which can be reversible with abstention. Sustained heavy and excessive drinking is followed by the irreversible Cirrhosis; this can result in liver failure, and is often fatal.
Sustained excessive drinking can also lead to damage of:
- The Mouth, Throat and Gullet
- The Stomach and Intestines
- The Heart
- Pregnancies issue, including development of alcohol foetal syndrome
As well as physical effects, alcohol can have numerous psychological effects.
It can affect mood, with heavy and regular drinking often leading to symptoms associated with depression, including:
- Disturbed sleep
- Feeling lethargic and tired
- Low mood
- Experiencing anxiety in situations where you might normally feel comfortable.
Excessive alcohol use can also have wide ranging impacts on our social lives; affecting our relationships with family members and friends, our working lives, contributing to anti-social behaviour and in extreme cases, criminal offences, including drunk and disorderly, drink driving and assaults.