How Does Alcohol Affect People?

Because alcohol is a drug, it changes your perceptions of everything from your ability to do things, to giving you a false sense of confidence. We see and hear story after story about people taking chances they would never take, just because they've had a few drinks. Alcohol can also deepen depression and other negative feelings by slowing down your brain functions.

Naturally, the effect of alcohol is different from one person to the next, but here's a general idea of what you can expect whether you just have one or two drinks. or a lot:

• Feelings of relaxation

• Giddiness
• Lightheadedness
• Increased chance of taking part in risky behaviour
• Dizziness
• Difficulty speaking and/or keeping your balance
• Upset
• Headache
• Vomiting
• Blackout

• Hangover

Alcohol, like marijuana, can lower inhibitions and impair judgment. Then you may get the same result - unprotected sex, increased possibilities of sexually transmitted diseases, and potential unwanted pregnancies.

Alcohol can be dangerous

Here are some extremely dangerous activities with respect to drinking that you should know about and avoid at all costs. The number one cause of death for youth is car accidents - so be smart - don't drink and drive! Never get in a car with somone who has been drinking, be a friend, take their keys. For more information and to view videos on driking and driving

• Never mix alcohol with other drugs because the effect is totally unpredictable.

• Never drink alcohol while you're pregnant or if you're thinking of becoming pregnant because it can affect the baby's health in serious ways.

• Never drink and drive: it may only take one drink to diminish your ability to drive safely and for you to become a threat on the road (besides, drinking and driving is also a serious criminal offence).

• Avoid drinking to excess because without self control, your safety is at risk, and you're almost guaranteed to make a fool of yourself.

• Avoid chronic, or regular alcohol use because it can have serious effects, even life-threatening ones, on your brain, liver and stomach.

Does everyone drink alcohol?

No. In fact, there are all kinds of people who don't drink at all because of past problems with alcohol, religious or cultural reasons, or just because they simply prefer not to drink. The majority of people who do consume alcohol drink it in a way that is socially responsible and not harmful to their health. Some people may have a drink on certain occasions - when they feel the atmosphere suits it. Others regularly drink a little with meals. Some people drink heavily but only infrequently. And then there's the hard-core bunch: those who drink a lot, and often, usually to the point of getting seriously drunk.

So what is alcohol? Where does it come from?

There are two main types of alcohol: ethyl and methyl. Methyl alcohol is the stuff that's used in paint removers and thinners (like turpentine), antifreeze for your car, some hair sprays and colognes, household cleaners and all sorts of industrial products. Naturally, methyl alcohol is not meant for human consumption because it's a poison and would likely cause serious health problems including brain damage and maybe even death. Ethyl alcohol, on the other hand, is the type that people drink. You find it in beer, wine, liquor (rum, gin, vodka, etc.), coolers, shooters and liqueurs.

Alcohol is a liquid and believe it or not, it actually comes from grains, fruits and vegetables through a process called fermentation, and for some types, an additional step called distillation. To simplify things, when you add yeast to certain grains, fruits or vegetables, the yeast consumes the sugar and converts it to alcohol: this is called fermentation, the process for making beer and wine. For hard liquor, the extra step called distilling is used to separate the pure alcohol from the fermented brew, and this step can be repeated several times until the desired strength of the alcohol is reached.

What's really important is how much alcohol you drink and how you can minimize the risk.

All types of alcoholic beverages have different strengths and most product labels will tell you exactly what the concentration or percentage of alcohol is. Beer is typically around 5% alcohol, meaning 95% of the content does not have alcohol. Wine is stronger at about 12%, liqueurs like schnapps, Baileys or Kahlua tend to be in the 25% range, and hard booze like rum, vodka and tequila are about 40%. If you look at it another way, 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of whiskey all contain about the same amount of alcohol.

Apart from remaining aware of the actual amount of alcohol, other factors will also help to regulate the effects: spacing drinks at least an hour apart; eating something before drinking (eating after starting to drink doesn't help); alternating alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks; drinking without being pressured into accepting a drink.

Effects on your social life

As if the health risks aren't bad enough, alcohol can have a major impact on your social life. You've probably heard people say things "they didn't really mean", just because they were drunk, or seen people do really stupid things, because they were drunk, and the embarrassment alone from these situations can be horrible to deal with for days, weeks - even months or years.

But it can get more serious than just embarrassment: take the person who drinks too much and shows up at work smelling like booze, several times a week, and doesn't do a very good job. How long will that go on before the boss says "you're fired"? The same goes for schoolwork: alcohol's effects lessen your own mental abilities and that can affect your grades, which can ultimately affect your career choices and your whole life path.

Some heavy drinkers even stay away from friends and family so that they can drink in peace, without being criticized, but all this does is make the person feel alone and depressed, and things just get worse until they're so bad that recovery becomes a life-long battle instead of what could have been a pretty quick fix.

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