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Alcohol may be the world's oldest drug. It is made by the sugars in fruits or grains fermenting and turning into alcohol. Alcohol can do all sorts of things to your body.

People drink alcohol all over the world. In some cultures and countries it is acceptable whilst in others it is banned. It is important to remember that alcohol is a drug and as with all drugs there are good and bad effects. It is up to you to decide whether you are going to take it, how much and what your limits are.

There are no right answers and only you can make a decision about it but remember not to cave into pressure.

The best advice is for anyone aged under 15 not to drink at all, this is the healthiest option.  Anyone aged 15-17 should never exceed the daily limit for adults (2-3 units for women and 3-4 units for men). For 15 to 17 year olds, drinking should be infrequent and never more than once a week. Try our alcohol calculator to see how many units are in different kinds of popular drinks. Remember it is not legal for people under 18 to buy alcohol.

The effects

Alcohol can have different effects on different people but it commonly exaggerates the mood you are in when you start drinking.  If you are happy you might get more happy, but if you are sad you will get even sadder.

There are short term effects of drinking alcohol and long term effects.

Short term effects

Low doses of alcohol can:

  • Relax you
  • Reduce tension
  • Reduce inhibition (you are less held back)
  • Reduce concentration
  • Slow reaction time, impairs co-ordination

Medium doses of alcohol can:

  • Make your speech slur
  • Make your emotions stronger (you might become really giggly or might get really angry and abusive)
  • Make you become sleepy
  • Impair your judgement

High doses of alcohol can:

  • Make you vomit
  • Make you lose consciousness
  • Cause you to have seizures
  • Give you breathing difficulties

Long term effects

If you drink a lot of alcohol over a long period of time you can become dependent on it. Drinking too much alcohol will damage your body.  It can damage lots of organs in the body like; your liver, your brain, and your heart, as well as things like; your sex drive and ability for a man to have an erection.

Drinking a little bit of alcohol in moderation is fine, so like everything else, getting a balance is the key!

How much is too much?

Everybody has a different tolerance level for alcohol and people react differently to varying amounts of alcohol.

What is a low, medium or high dose of alcohol?

  • This depends on how much you have drunk (of course)
  • Your age
  • Your sex
  • The amount of food you have eaten
  • If you have taken other drugs/ medications

Some people can get drunk on a tiny amount of alcohol, whilst others take a bit more. Your liver gets rid of alcohol at the rate of about 1 unit per hour. Some Asian people do not have a lot of the enzyme in their liver which helps to get rid of alcohol so for them, alcohol hangs around for a lot longer and they get drunk quicker.

The recommended amount of alcohol for women is 2-3 units a day and for men 3-4 units per day. This is a recommendation for adults only. There is no safe amount of drinking for young people under the age of 18 years. If you intend to drink alcohol, only drink it occasionally and certainly not more than one day a week.  No more than 2-3 units for women and 3-4 units for men should be consumed on that one day a week. Our alcohol calculator shows you how many units are in each kind of drink.

What is a unit?

A unit is how we measure how much alcohol we are drinking. This depends on how strong the alcohol is and how much we are drinking. The strength of alcohol is usually written on the bottle as a percentage. For example, beer is usually 3.5% but strong lager can be 6%.

Check out how many units you are drinking. You need to know the strength of the alcohol you are drinking and how much. Usually, beer is 3.5%, alcopops 5%, wine 9%, spirits 40%.

Volume of alcohol depends on the size of your glass. One pint is about 570 ml, one alcopop bottle is 330ml, a small glass of wine is about 110ml, one pub measure of spirit is about 25ml.

Use our alcohol calculator, find out about how much is safe to drink and how much isn't.