Alcohol Facts

Here you will find information on alcohol including signs and symptoms of an alcohol problem and overdose awareness.

Most of this information has come from the common questions people ask us.

You can also download and print a copy of this information here.

Full information on alcohol can be found through various other websites such as


image of bottles

Category: Depressant
Class: Legal for people over the age of 18

How long to take effect? Usually 5 minutes.

How long does it stay in your body? Alcohol is removed from the body at an average rate of 1 unit per hour.

What does alcohol do? Alcohol is a legal (in certain circumstances) depressant that slows down the messages travelling between your brain and your body. It slows down your heart rate, breathing rate, and your core body temperature.

In small amounts, alcohol can make you feel more relaxed, more confident and can heighten your emotions. It can affect your vision, make your speech slurred and affect your coordination. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and increases confidence. It can make you feel violent, aggressive, and angry and down.

Risks of using alcohol: Alcohol depresses the nerves that control actions such as breathing and your gag reflex. Alcohol is an irritant to the stomach which means vomiting is common. You are at risk of choking on your own vomit while sleeping which can lead to death.

Alcohol lowers your core temperature which makes you at risk from hypothermia. People build a tolerance to alcohol over time which means you have to drink more to have the feelings of being drunk.

Alcohol also affects your coordination which means falls are common. This can lead to a variety of injuries.

Excessive drinking can cause problems in finances, relationships, family life, and employment.

Risk reduction for alcohol:

  • Avoid mixing alcohol and other drugs together. It can confuse your system and creates unpredictable effects.
  • Try to stay aware of your own limits
  • Always try to eat before drinking alcohol. Drinking on an empty stomach can lead to stomach problems and can make the effects of alcohol quicker.
  • Do not drive under the influence of alcohol
  • Make sure you know how you are getting home if out with friends and have your phone with you
  • Do not leave your drink unattended if you are out

Signs and symptoms of a problem with alcohol

It is difficult to see when alcohol has become a problem in yourself or in someone you care about. People often cope with things differently. Someone may drink excessively over a few days to cope with something that has happened or is happening in their life. Some people drink to celebrate or to socialise but that may not mean there is a ‘problem’ or an ‘addiction’.

An alcohol problem is when a person becomes physically and/or psychologically dependent. Alcohol dependency is a feeling of not being able to do without alcohol and a desperate need to get alcohol and take it to ease the feelings that come from not having it.

There may also be a problem if you notice regular patterns of drinking such as drinking every weekend or every day.

If you or someone you know is drinking more than usual, you may not notice until it becomes very clear such as something happening like an injury from drinking too much, erratic behaviour and issues in your personal life like your family, relationships or finances.

What are the physical signs of an alcohol problem?

  • Loss or increase in appetite, change in eating habits, unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Slowed or staggered walking, bumping into things, falling over
  • The smell of alcohol on the breath
  • Slow or slurred speech
  • Irregular sleeping patterns, having difficulty sleeping, awake at unusual times
  • Excessive talking and/or hyperactivity

What are the behavioural signs of an alcohol problem?

  • Changes in attitude or personality with no other reason
  • Changes in friends, avoiding old friends
  • Changes in habits at home, loss of interest in family and family activities
  • Can’t pay attention and forgets things
  • Not motivated to do anything, has no energy or self-esteem
  • Moody and has sudden outbursts
  • Irritated
  • Paranoid
  • Feels the need to keep things private such as hiding bottles of alcohol, lying, refusing to say where they are going
  • Unexplained need for money, stealing money and/or items, selling things
  • Drinking alcohol alone, maybe early in the morning
  • Often drunk for long periods of time
  • Experiencing blackouts after drinking alcohol such as being unable to remember what happened when they were drunk

Alcohol overdose information

People can overdose on alcohol and they will need help immediately.

Signs of an alcohol overdose:

  • The person is confused
  • Loss of coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
  • Slow breathing (less than eight breaths per minute)
  • Pale or blue-tinged skin
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Unconsciousness or passing out

How to respond to an alcohol overdose:

  • Call an ambulance and tell the operator your location and stay on the line
  • Keep the person warm
  • If you can’t get a response from the person or if they are unconscious, put them in the recovery position
  • Do not leave the person lying on their back
  • If the person is awake try to keep them in a sitting position
  • Be prepared to give CPR if the person stops breathing before an ambulance arrives
  • If they are having seizures or muscle spasms, move anything near them that might cause injury

Further information

Alcohol poisoning information
Alcohol overdose
Recovery position

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