Alcohol Facts

Alcohol Usage Statistics
Effects of taking Alcohol
Women and alcohol
Alcohol and Pregnancy
Mixing Alcohol with other Drugs
Tolerance and Dependence
Sobering Up
Alcohol and Driving

General Information

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is often not thought of as a drug because it is used for both religious and social purposes in most parts of the world. Compulsive drinking in excess has become a serious social problem of modern society.       

Drug class:  Sedative/Hypnotic

Alcohol Usage Statistics

Who uses Alcohol?

Statistic Links




Effects of taking Alcohol

Short term Effects of Alcohol

The effects of vary for each person depending on:  

Immediate effects

How Alcohol Works:

Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestine, and less rapidly from the stomach and colon. Dependant on the alcohol concentration in the bloodstream, it decreases activity in parts of the brain and spinal cord.              

Once the alcohol has passed into the blood, however, no food or beverage can retard or interfere with its effects. Fruit sugar, however, in some cases can shorten the duration of alcohol's effect by speeding up its elimination from the blood.
In the average adult, the rate of metabolism is about 8.5 g of alcohol per hour (i.e. about two-thirds of a regular beer or about 30 mL of spirits an hour), but varies dramatically depending on such diverse factors as:     

Alcohol slows down the messages sent between the brain and the rest of the body making one:      

Excessive drinking over a short time can cause:

Long Term Effects of Alcohol

The effects of any drug depend on several factors:

Drinking excessive alcohol over a long time can cause physical, emotional or social problems, and can be and can be primary (resulting directly from prolonged exposure to the toxic) effects of alcohol, such as:  

or secondary indirectly related to chronic alcohol abuse, including:  

Early death rates are much higher for heavy drinkers than for light drinkers or abstainers particularly from:  

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking means excessive drinking over a few hours non-stop over days or weeks and can be very dangerous as it makes the problems from alcohol worse.  

Standard Drinks

A 'standard drink' is the measure of alcohol used to work out safe drinking levels (about 10grams of alcohol). 

Light Beer

Ordinary Beer




1 schooner 425mls 2.7% alcohol

1 middie or pot 285mls 4.9% alcohoL

1 glass 100ml 12% alcohol

1 nip 30ml 40% alcohol

1 glass 60ml 20% alcohol

Sensible Drinking Guidelines






up to 2

Low risk

up to 4


Medium risk


more than 4


more than 6

Everyone should have at least 2 alcohol-free days a week.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) means how much alcohol is present in a person's blood. A breathalyzer test measures the amount of alcohol in a person's breath and gives an idea of BAC. The test gives a percentage, such as .05. A person with a BAC level of .05 has more alcohol in their blood than someone with a level of .02. BAC is determined by how much a person drinks and how long they take to drink it.

Alcohol is absorbed very quickly into the blood from the stomach, in as short a time as 5 to 10 minutes but the effects can last for several hours depending on the amount and how quickly it was drunk. Alcohol intake is measured in units, one unit being 8 grammes of pure alcohol, which is equal to half a pint of normal strength beer/lager/cider, a standard glass of wine or a pub measure of spirits.            

BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentrate) (ma/dL) (milligrams alcohol per decilitre blood)


50 ma/dL

100 ma/dL

150 ma/dL

Obvious intoxication in all normal people

• Staggering gait and lack of other muscular coordination

• slurred speech

• double vision

• memory and comprehension loss

250 ma/dL

350 ma/dL 


• Death likely

Women and alcohol

Women should drink less than men because: 

Alcohol and Pregnancy

Regular alcohol drinking during pregnancy may cause problems for both the mother and baby. Excessive drinking can lead to:  

Some babies are born fetal alcohol syndrome or FAS. The most serious consequences of this condition include: 

Mixing Alcohol with other Drugs

Mixing alcohol with any other drug, including prescription medication, can be dangerous. Combining alcohol with other drugs can make the effects of these other drugs much stronger and more dangerous. Many accidental deaths have occurred after people have used alcohol combined with other drugs.

Cannabis, tranquillizers, barbiturates and other sleeping pills, or antihistamines (in cold, cough, and allergy remedies) should not be taken with alcohol. 

Mixing alcohol with sedative drugs (e.g. sleeping pills, heroin, marijuana) can:       

Tolerance and Dependence

Anyone can develop a 'tolerance' to alcohol. Tolerance means more alcohol must be consumed to experience the same effects.

'Dependence' on alcohol means that it it is all consuming on thinking, emotions and activities. Not all people who drink are dependent.

People who are dependent on alcohol find it very difficult to stop or reduce drinking. This is because of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms include:  

Sobering Up

Getting alcohol out of your body, takes time. About 10% of alcohol leaves the body through breath, sweat and urine, but is mostly broken down by the liver. However, the liver can only get rid of about one standard drink per hour and you can still be over the legal limit even hours after drinking.

There are a few basic procedures follow in situations dealing with drunken behavior:

Seek medical attention if: 

Alcohol and Driving

About one-third of all road deaths are caused by alcohol. There are laws to limit the amount a person can drink before driving. These laws primarily affect:

Some people seem to go over the limit easier and will reach higher BAC more quickly, including:        

If your legal limit is .05 a good guide is 2 standard drinks in the first hour and then 1 per hour after that. If your legal limit is .02 a good guide is to avoid drinking at all if driving. If you drink more the penalties associated with drink driving are serious and as well as losing your licence a jail sentence may also be incurred.