On this page you will find:
- Basic Info
- What it looks like
- Units and how they work
- Binge Drinking
- Choices film about alcohol
Alcohol is a chemical that is added to different kinds of drinks. The drinks are all referred to as ‘alcohol’ but really they are different drinks with alcohol in them – alcoholic drinks. There is a very big range of alcoholic drinks but they are grouped into three different kinds of drink: beers, spirits and wines. All alcoholic drinks come in different strengths and with different names. The strength of a drink is about how much alcohol is in that drink.
Beers include lager and cider. Fosters lager is a regular strength lager, Stella Artois is strong.
Spirits include vodka, whisky, schapps and alcopops like WKD. Vodka and whisky are strong spirits; bottles of schnapps and alcopops are less strong, because they have been diluted with other things.
Wines include champagne and sherry. Wines are stronger than beers, but not as strong as spirits.
Alcohol is considered to be a drug because, when taken into the body, it changes how you feel, think or behave. A drug is any substance that, when taken into the body, does this. When the way a person feels, think and behaves has been changed by alcohol, the new way they feel is called being ‘intoxicated’ or ‘drunk.’
The first changes people usually notice after they start drinking are feelings of being relaxed, content, more confident, and more talkative. As they continue to drink, they start to slow down. They still feel content, confident and talkative, but their body is so relaxed that talking and moving become more difficult. It might feel difficult to control speech and movement – words become slurred, vision blurred, and hands, arms and legs might not do what the brain wants them to very well any more! This is because alcohol slows the body down. Drugs that do this are called ‘depressants.’ Depressant, when we’re talking about drugs, does not mean ‘makes you sad’. It means ‘slow down’ or ‘push down.’ Depressant drugs depress (‘push down’) the nervous system, and this slows down the heart rate and slows down breathing, which relaxes the body at first, then just makes it slower and slower.
The reason that the drinker starts by feeling confident and talkative is that when your body is slowed down by a depressant drug, one of the things that relaxes is your inhibitions. Inhibitions are thoughts and feelings that make us self-conscious – that make us think about what we look like, what impression we’re making on others, what they might think of us if we do this thing or that, and stop us from doing things that might make people think badly of us. The more we drink, the more these inhibitions dissolve away, and the less we care about what others think about us. This is what makes us feel confident and chatty after we’ve had a few drinks.
Gradually, the depressant action of the drug, if we keep drinking it, slows us down so much that we can’t talk properly any more, and can’t control our bodies any more. This is why some people end up fighting, falling over, being sick and falling asleep in public.
Factsheets about alcohol
Choices short harm reduction film on alcohol