Category: Depressant intoxicant
Chemical name: ethyl alcohol or ethanol
- Natural product obtained when sugars from barley, rice, fruits, etc. are fermented.
- Alcohol is taken orally, usually in the form of beverages, but it can also be mixed into foods and eaten. Many people also cook with alcohol, but cooking alcohol over heat causes most of the actual alcoholic content to evaporate, leaving only the taste.
- Concentration of alcohol in a beverage ranges from 0.5% ("coolers") to 5% (beer), 12% (wine) and up to 40% (hard liquor) - some beverages will have more
*Reactions and experiences may vary dramatically from person to person.*
Effects on brain:
- Alcohol that enters the bloodstream reaches the brain and modifies the transmission of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA. By lowering the effects of glutamate, there is a fair reduction of activity in the central nervous system. Also, by increasing the effects of GABA, there is an increase of activity in the dopamine routes (effects on motivation/pleasure) and an inhibition of acetylcholine (neurotransmitter important in memory) in the ventral tegmental area.
- There is possibility of damage of cerebral tissues (ataxia), resulting in acute mental problems, and Korsakoff psychosis.
Effects on body:
- Possible short term effects include relaxation of the muscles, dilation of the blood vessels in the skin, diuretic properties, decreased pain sensitivity, flushed skin, difficulty focusing eyes, decreased vision, taste and smell, changed (often increased) response to sexual stimuli, sexual dysfunction, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, difficulty talking and moving correctly, sleepiness, hangover (headache, nausea and vomiting the next day, lasting 12-36 hours), loss of motor control, blackouts and memory loss, loss of consciousness, coma and death.
- Possible long term effects include damage to the brain, liver (cirrhosis), heart, and other organs, resulting in serious physical problems, reduction of convulsions, disruption of REM sleep/deep sleep, damage to the digestive system, central nervous system and peripheral nervous system (neurological problems, damage to peripheral nerves) vitamin deficiencies, menstrual dysfunctions. Throat, mouth, liver and breast cancer have all been linked to alcohol use.
Effects on behaviour:
- Possible short term effects include relaxation, happiness, talkativeness, lowered inhibitions, drowsiness, sleepiness, changes in aesthetic appreciation (ugly things seem beautiful and vice versa), decreased coordination, bad judgment (can lead to unwanted and negative encounters), emotional volatility, memory loss with high doses.
- Long term effects can include depression, damage to families and relationships, alcoholic dementia.
Addiction: Alcohol is highly addictive, both physically and psychologically
Tolerance: Metabolic and contextual tolerance develops very quickly
Withdrawal Symptoms: usually appear in 2 stages (after regular use):
- Stage 1) Starts 8 hours after the end of drinking bout, includes agitation, tremors, muscle cramps, vomiting, sweating, vivid dreams. This stage is over within 48 hours.
- Stage 2) Occurs 2 days later, and includes nervousness, disorientation, confusion, seizures, hallucinations (delirium tremors), nightmares. Lasts 7-10 days and can cause death if not treated.
*Disclaimer! Nothing you do can make consuming alcohol completely safe. All drug use has inherent risks and dangers. The suggestions in this section can only help you reduce some of the associated risks. The best way to avoid the harms related to drug use is to not take the drug at all.*
- Purchasing or drinking alcohol when you are under 19 is illegal in most of Canada (18 in Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba). If you are over the legal drinking age, purchasing for someone who is underage is also illegal.
- Alcohol use affects the developing mind and body differently than developed ones. Waiting until your mind and body have more fully developed before using substances can have long term health and mental benefits.
- Driving with a Blood Alcohol level over 0.05 (50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood) in Ontario will result in losing your license for 3 to 30 days and a permanent criminal record. For the rest of Canada the legal Blood Alcohol level for driving is 0.08.
- Mixing alcohol with other medications (over the counter, prescriptions) or illegal drugs may be very dangerous (e.g. alcohol + GHB) and may result in serious medical emergencies and even death.
- One standard drink (341 ml of beer or cooler, 142 ml of wine, 43 ml of spirits) is metabolized (eliminated from your body) in about 1 hour.
- Binge drinking does way more damage to your body than having one or two. Your body can only process so much alcohol at one time. Take breaks between drinks, alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic and avoid rapid consumption of beverages.
- If you are going to be drinking make sure to eat before to help your body handle the alcohol intake. During your drinking, make sure to eat snacks and drink water.
- Alcohol is involved in many date-rape incidents. Be safe, keep your eyes on your drink, and make sure to have a group of friends with you that you trust.
- If you or someone you know has been binge drinking make sure that they sleep on their stomach or side. Sleeping on your back can lead to choking on your own vomit.