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Information for Youth: Alcohol

Alcohol

​​​​​​What does alcohol do to the body?

Alcohol enters the bloodstream through the stomach and intestine. Once in the bloodstream, it is carried to other parts of the body quite quickly. In fact, it reaches the brain almost immediately. Alcohol stays in the body until it is broken down by the liver and eventually leaves the body through breath, sweat and urine. The brain is the body's control centre, so alcohol has a big impact on the way we behave. The more alcohol in the blood, the greater the impact. Judgment, inhibitions, reaction time, co-ordination, vision, speech, balance, walking and standing are all affected by alcohol.

What does alcohol do to your mood?

Beer commercials always make it seem like drinking beer will make you feel great, but it’s hard to know how people will act after drinking alcohol. A lot depends on the person’s mood and where they are drinking. After a couple of drinks, one person might be more relaxed, another depressed, another more wild, another angry. In general, you'll feel more of what you were feeling before you started drinking. People who are depressed can feel even worse. Sometimes you will feel whatever you expect the alcohol to make you feel.

Is alcohol a drug?

Yes, and aside from the caffeine in coffee, it’s the most popular drug in. About four out of five Albertans drink beer, wine or liquor. It is also the drug most commonly used by teens

Is it dangerous to take other drugs with alcohol?

It is important to be very careful about mixing two kinds of drugs. Remember, alcohol is a drug, and some other drugs cause serious problems when used with alcohol.

How much is one standard drink?

Because of the different percentages of alcohol in beer, wine and distilled liquor, people commonly believe that some kinds of alcoholic beverages are safer, or don't get you drunk as fast.

In fact, there’s about the same amount of alcohol in a bottle of beer (341 ml/12 oz.) as there is in a glass of wine (142 ml/5 oz.) or a shot of whisky (43 ml/1.5 oz.).

Does switching your drinks—from beer to wine, for instance—make you drunker?

No. The type of drink makes no difference because whether it is in beer, wine or liquor, alcohol is alcohol is alcohol.

What is the fastest way to sober up?

There isn't one. Not cold showers, not black coffee, not any of the remedies people try. The only thing that helps to sober up is time, because the liver needs time to break down and eliminate the alcohol.

How long does it take to get rid of the effects of alcohol?

It can take hours for the body to get rid of the effects of one drink (one beer, one glass of wine or a single shot of whisky). So even if you have one drink an hour, alcohol builds up in your blood because you’re drinking faster than your body is breaking down that alcohol.

Speaking of the effects of alcohol, just as there’s no remedy to sober up, there’s no cure for a hangover other than time. Think of it as your body's way of grounding you. And the more you drink, the longer you're going to be grounded.

How can I be safer if I am planning to drink?

  • Eat before and while you are drinking
  • Make a plan before you drink to count your drinks and to never leave your drink unattended
  • Stay with friends and look out for each other
  • If someone passes out do not leave them. Understand what an alcohol overdose looks like and if you see signs call 911
  • Do not drink and drive or be in a vehicle with a driver who has been drinking
  • Have a backup plans with your parents or friends that you can call them anytime and they will pick you up.
  • Do not drink alone
  • If you are worried about your own or someone else’s drinking you can call the Addiction Helpline for free confidential help.

Current as of: May 31, 2015

Author: Addiction & Mental Health, Alberta Health Services