Over 90% of the adult population consume alcohol. Drinking tends to be associated with good times like parties and events and is often used as a ‘release’, for example, at the end of a hard week at work. If consumed in moderation, at the right time and place, alcohol can be compatible with a healthy lifestyle. Some people decide to be ‘teetotal’. That’s their choice and it should always be respected. The focus in the media tends to be around illicit drugs, but alcohol is also a drug. In fact there are more than 3 times as many deaths from alcohol as illicit drug deaths. Alcohol is a legal and socially accepted drug but problems do arise from its use.
What Is Alcohol?
A component in all alcoholic drinks is ethanol (ethyl alcohol). Ethanol is a by product of the fermentation process. A standard dose of alcohol is called a unit and a unit measure of drink contains 8g of ethanol.
- Alcohol is a powerful drug and it affects the body and brain straight away. About 5 minutes after starting drinking, alcohol has reached every part of the body. It takes the body (mainly the liver) at least one hour to break down one unit of alcohol.
- Alcohol dehydrates the body and lowers blood sugar levels.
- Alcohol dulls the brain. Although this may feel stimulating at first, it feels worse later on because alcohol is actually a depressant drug. It depresses our ability to co-ordinate our movements and slows down our reflexes – this is why it is dangerous to drive, use machinery, or do some sports (e.g. swimming) having consumed even very small amounts of alcohol.
- Despite what many people think, alcohol does not warm you up. The immediate warmth felt after drinking is due to alcohol dilating the blood vessels on the surface of the body, but this has the effect of cooling our core temperature.
- Alcohol has no real nutritional value but it is quite high in calories. For example, a pint of lager contains around 200 calories and a large glass of wine around 170 calories.
- Mixing alcohol with other drugs is extremely dangerous. This includes prescription and over the counter drugs, as well as illicit drugs.
On Tuesday 1 May Scotland became the first country in the work to implement a minimum unit price for alcohol (MUP), following a ten year campaign. As of this date no alcohol in Scotland will be sold for less than 50p per unit.