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Alcohol - Get the Facts

Is alcohol a drug?

Yes.  Alcohol is called a depressant drug because it slows down your brain’s ability to think and to make decisions and judgements.  Whether the alcohol comes in beer, wine, or liquor doesn’t matter.  It’s the amount of alcohol in your drink, not the type of drink, that affects you.

What is problem drinking?

If drinking seriously interferes with your life, you have a drinking problem.

If drinking, to you, means getting drunk, not remembering what you did, passing out, or feeling embarrassed about the night before, these are signs of a problem.  Other signs are:

  • getting into fights when you drink

  • having sex when you drink with someone you don’t particularly like

  • being frequently hung over or late for work or school

  • being charged with impaired driving

  • if drinking is your major way of coping with stress, or if you cannot control how much you drink at any one time, you have a problem.

What is sensible drinking?

Sensible drinking does not interfere with:

  • your health

  • your job or studies

  • your relationships

  • your safety

  • the safety of others

A pattern of sensible drinking means days of not drinking mixed with days of light drinking.

Can drinking hurt me physically?

  • Drinking a lot of alcohol over a long time can do serious damage to your body.

  • Brain damage, ulcers, liver disease, malnutrition, heart disease, and various cancers are more common among heavy drinkers.

  • People who drink heavily are likely to die younger than people who drink lightly or not at all.

  • Pregnant women who drink risk having babies with birth defects, sometimes very serious ones.  It is known that the more a pregnant woman drinks, the higher the risk; but it is not known whether just one or two drinks are really “safe.”

How dangerous is mixing alcohol with other drugs?

It can be very dangerous. Especially risky is taking a few drinks with other depressant (or “downer”) drugs, such as tranquilizers and sleeping pills.  The alcohol and the other drugs boost the effect of each other, and a person unexpectedly may seem very drunk, pass out, go into a coma, or even die.  Even common non-prescription drugs such as antihistamines (for colds and allergies) can make you dopey and clumsy when you take alcohol at the same time.

Taking stimulant drugs such as caffeine, cocaine, or amphetamines after drinking a lot of alcohol isn’t a good idea either.  These drugs can trick you into thinking you are sober, but you’re really not - you are just wider awake and more hyper.

Researchers now believe that alcohol makes the body absorb cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco and cannabis more quickly.  If you drink and smoke, you may be more likely to get cancer of the mouth, neck, or throat.

Some medicines can’t do their job as well if they are mixed with alcohol.  Other medicines can interact violently with alcohol, causing side effects such as cramps, vomiting, and headaches.

When it comes to alcohol and other drugs, the best advice is: Don’t mix.