This page has been put together using information taken from Dr Suzi Gage Say Why to Drugs Podcast – an episodic podcast taking an in depth, factual look at a different drug (alcohol is a drug) each week.
There are currently four podcasts related to the subject of alcohol: Alcohol, Hangovers, Addiction and Dry January.
You can also keep up to date with all Dr Suzi Gage’s work on her Guardian Blog.
To truly love something you must be able to accept it’s strengths as well as it’s weaknesses.
The simple facts you should take away from this page are that alcohol is a dangerous and addictive drug which should be treated with caution. In the UK we are allowed to consume alcohol legally once we are above the age of 18. The government advocates ‘Drinking Responsibly’ and at Love Beer Bars Ltd we believe that to that you need to have all of the facts readily available. We always advocate drinking responsibly and always sticking to your recommended daily allowance as set out in government guidelines (More Info Here).
Alcohol dependence is a slow creep that starts with people thinking it is acceptable to regularly use alcohol to enhance creativity, enhance social situations or using it as an emotional crux. As part of our on going commitment to social responsibility we give 5% of profits to local addiction treatment centres.
What’s the appeal?
When we talk about alcohol as a recreational drug we really mean ethanol, a particular type of alcohol that is produced when sugar is fermented by yeast. Alcoholic drinks are usually made from fermented fruits or grains, and usually fall in to three categories:
Alcoholic drinks have a long history of use in the UK, and are very much ingrained in UK culture.
Ale was extremely popular in the Middle Ages, though it was much weaker, and consumed daily in large quantities.
Office of National Statistics figures from 2014 found that only 16% of white adults in Great Britain reported being teetotal (although the figure was substantially higher for other ethnicities, see table 4 here).
Short term effects
Most people reading this are probably familiar with the symptoms of alcohol intoxication.
Alcohol takes between 10 minutes to an hour to get in to the bloodstream, and its effects vary depending on the dose.
After an average drink, you might feel more sociable and warm, the feeling described as “tipsy”. At this level of alcohol consumption:
- your heart rate has increased
- your blood vessels dilate.
- Your inhibitions might be slightly lowered
- and you might feel relaxed.
As you drink more alcohol, the effects get more pronounced:
- You can start to feel lightheaded
- you might struggle with fine motor tasks
- your judgement and decision making can become impaired
It’s easy when sober to decide that one or two drinks is all you’re going to have, but once you’ve had those drinks you might feel differently.
If you carry on drinking from this point, things can get much worse. You might experience:
- sever motor control impairment leading to stumbles and falls
All this, combined with impaired judgment, can lead to serious accidents.
There’s some evidence that alcohol intoxication might increase aggression, but at the moment it’s pretty weak.
When we’re drunk, we are more likely to partake in risky behaviours, and this can include unprotected sex leading to an increased in STD infections.
Within the brain, alcohol affects almost every neurotransmitter in the brain. It’s a global or “dirty” drug, and this is why it can appear like a stimulant and a depressant depending on the dose and time after drinking.
Long term effects
Long term alcohol use is known to increase the risk of liver problems.
Heavy drinking, even in the short term, can lead to a buildup of fat in the liver, which is a reversible warning sign of alcohol-related liver disease.
If the liver isn’t given a break from alcohol to recover, more serious disease can set in, with symptoms often not being seen until the liver is very damaged (more information is available on the NHS website).
Alcohol is also causally associated with seven different cancers, including breast cancer, liver cancer, mouth cancer and bowel cancer. CRUK estimate that alcohol is responsible for 4% of cancer cases in the UK.
Alcohol can be addictive, and about 9% of men and 4% of women in the UK show symptoms of alcohol dependence.
Alcohol tolerance builds up over time, meaning a person needs to consume more alcohol to get the same effect, and it can be a struggle to cut down even when a person has health problems.
There are also withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit alcohol, and these can include seizures and can potentially be extremely dangerous.
Also, as alcohol tolerance will reduce if a person abstains, overdosing on alcohol during relapse is easily done and can have severe consequences.
Long term alcohol use can negatively impact on mental health.
It has been linked to:
- increased risk of depression and anxiety
- memory impairment
- increased levels of stress.
What do we still not know
There’s still a surprising large list of things we know little about regarding our drug of choice:
- We currently have a very limited understanding of hangovers – why do some people get them, while others can drink far more and feel fine the next day?
- We also don’t know with certainty about drinking a small amount during pregnancy and the risk that confers to the unborn child. The guidelines in the UK recommend avoiding alcohol during pregnancy.