Alcohol

  • booze
  • drink
  • goon
  • juice
  • liquor
  • piss
  • sauce
  • grog
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What is alcohol?

Alcohol is a drug that acts as a depressant and slows down the brain and nervous system. It is the most widely used drug in Australia.

What is a standard drink? Learn how many standard drinks are in common glasses by using the Standard Drink Calculator.

Download the alcohol fact sheet and watch the Respect Your Brain videos for more information.

Learn more
Alcohol
Alcohol

Ethanol

(C2H6O)

Drinking a small amount is not harmful for most people, but excessive drinking on any one occasion can cause health, personal and social problems.

Immediate effects can include

  • relax / feel good
  • feel dizzy / have bad balance
  • bad co-ordination
  • react slowly

Effects depend on...

​The effects of alcohol depends on how much you drink, how quickly you drink it, your size and weight, and whether you are male or female.

It can also depend on how good your general health is, how healthy your liver is, where you drink, whether you drink alone, whether you use alcohol with other drugs including medications and if there is a family history of alcohol and other drug dependence.

  • do or say things you normally wouldn't
  • blurred vision
  • get angry
  • depressed
  • vomit
  • slur your words

How alcohol affects your body

Tap a body part to learn more of the effects alcohol places on your body.

Long term effects can include

  • depression
  • frequent infections
  • diabetes
  • memory loss/confusion
  • poor diet
  • relationship problems
  • work problems
  • money or legal troubles
  • dependence

General information

Is alcohol a problem for you?

Anyone drinking regularly can develop a tolerance to alcohol. Tolerance means that you must drink more to feel the same effects you used to have with lower amounts.

The way you choose to stop is a personal one but there is assistance available.

See full support list
  • The Alcohol & Drug Information Service (ADIS) is a free and confidential counselling helpline for NSW residents with concerns around alcohol and/or drug misuse and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. ADIS is staffed by professional counsellors who provide education, information, counselling, support and referrals to other appropriate services in NSW.

    Are you worried you could be drinking too much or consuming drugs in a way that has become a problem? Are you worried about your friends or family finding out and want to get help quickly and quietly? Are you worried about the drug use of someone close to you – maybe a family member or friend? Maybe you just want to know where someone can get help? 

    ADIS clinicians understand the difficulties of speaking out, seeking help and finding appropriate drug and alcohol treatment, and use their knowledge and experience to assist you and answer questions, such as:

    • How can I cut-down or stop my alcohol or drug use?
    • What help can I get?
    • Do I have to wait long to get help?
    • Can anyone ring ADIS?
    • Who do I talk to when I ring ADIS?
    • Will drug and alcohol treatments be difficult?
    • What is this drug doing to me?
    • What are the short and long term problems that could develop if I continue using?
    • Will ADIS tell anyone that I rang?
    • What can I expect when I ring?
    • Does ADIS record calls?

    You can call ADIS 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1800 250 015 or for Sydney Metropolitan 02 8382 1000 or alternatively you can start a Web Chat.

    ADIS Web Chat is available from Monday to Friday 8.30am – 5pm (including public holidays).

    ADIS also has a range of telephone lines offering specialised drug and alcohol information and support to particular groups.

    24 hour support line

    1800 250 015

    More about Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) NSW
  • The Alcohol & Drug Information Service (ADIS) Web Chat is a live online conversation with a professional counsellor. The service is free, confidential and open to anyone affected by alcohol and other drugs, including people concerned about their own use, or about a family member or friend. Web chat is only available for people living in NSW.

    The service is provided by ADIS at St Vincent's Hospital, in partnership with the NSW Ministry of Health.

    What to expect

    • A counsellor will chat with you about your alcohol or other drug concerns
    • A counsellor can provide a referral or contact information for relevant alcohol and drug services in NSW
    • Our chat is confidential unless you disclose any intention to harm yourself or others.
    • WebChat is provided in English however if you prefer to speak in a language other than English we would be happy to arrange a telephone call with you through the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National). Please call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service on 1800 250 015 to arrange this.

    Emergency Assistance

    Call Emergency Services on 000 if you:

    • require urgent medical attention or
    • are in immediate danger or
    • are at risk of harming yourself or someone else.


    Monday to Friday 8.30am – 5pm (including public holidays)

    #;Web Chat

    More about ADIS Web Chat
  • Your Service Hub is an online directory of alcohol and other drugs support, health and welfare services. If you need support for your own or someone else's substance use, you should use terms in Find Services like:

    • drug and alcohol family support

    • drug and alcohol Aboriginal services 

    • drug counselling

    • drug and alcohol rehabilitation

    • drug and alcohol residential treatment

    Use your suburb name to narrow the search to services near you.

    Not sure what service you need? Call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service on 1800 250 015.

    More about Your Service Hub
  • Family Drug Support (FDS) provides support and assistance to families throughout Australia who are experiencing difficulty with a family member using alcohol or other drugs.

    FDS is a non-religious, non-judgemental and caring organisation of volunteers who have first-hand experience living with family members experiencing alcohol or drug dependency.

    FDS supports families by providing information about alcohol and other drugs, dependence and treatment options, while also helping families to overcome stigma and reduce self-blame, provide mutual support and help families build skills to strengthen their relationships.

    FDS provide a 24 hour, 7 days a week support line for families, support groups and meetings, the 'Stepping Stones' and 'Stepping Forward' courses, events and resources.

    Find out how FDS can help you.

    24 hour support line

    1300 368 186

    More about Family Drug Support (FDS)
  • ​The Get Healthy Service Alcohol Reduction Program is a free telephone-based coaching service designed to support you to make healthy lifestyle changes and reduce your alcohol consumption.

    The Get Healthy Service offers coaching calls to support you to achieve a healthy weight, eat healthier, increase your levels of physical activity and reduce your alcohol consumption by making small simple changes to your lifestyle.

    If you are, or know someone who is worried about their level of alcohol consumption then the alcohol reduction program is highly recommended. The Get Healthy health coaches will assess the risk of drinking and provide support and motivation needed to help you reach your health goal. The program uses the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), an internationally validated screening tool to screen for alcohol risk.

    What's included?

    You will receive free coaching sessions with your own personal health coach and a book containing information about appropriate alcohol intake, an alcohol facts booklet and an alcohol journey book to help you keep motivated and record your progress.

    How to Enrol

    The NSW Get Healthy Service is available Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm. To enrol simply call 1300 806 258 or register online at gethealthynsw.com.au/alcohol to start your get healthy journey.

    Learn more about how the Get Healthy Service can help you.

    Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm

    1300 806 258

    More about Get Healthy Coaching Service
  • Drinks Meter is a user-friendly app for your phone or tablet that provides confidential, personalised feedback about your alcohol use based on advice from doctors and the Australian guidelines to reduce health related risks from alcohol. 

    Drinks Meter is:

    • Free to download
    • Allows you to easily enter alcoholic drinks you have had in the past 7 days
    • Adds up your weekly spend on alcohol
    • Shows what you've been drinking in equivalent standard drinks
    • Shows what you've been drinking in kilojoules/calories you've consumed and the equivalent to foods like cheeseburgers or chocolate bars
    • Shows you how your drinking compares with national alcohol guidelines and other users of Drinks Meter
    • Personalises your feedback adjusted to risk factors based on family and medical history (e.g. BMI, prescription medication, mental illness and addiction)
    • Has tools to help you cut down your drinking, like weekly goal setting and a drinking diary
    • Includes an interactive pouring tool to help you understand how much is a standard drink

    Get started by downloading the Drinks Meter app through your app store or download the Drinks Meter fact sheet for more informtion.

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    Drinks Meter screenshots




    More about Drinks Meter app
  • Families, friends and loved ones can play a critical role in the recovery of people who experience alcohol and other drug problems, however they are often focused on the needs of others while they neglect their own their own health and wellbeing.

    The Family and Friend Support Program (FFSP) is an online cognitive behavioural therapy program to support people who are caring for or supporting someone with alcohol and other drug use issues.

    FFSP is based on a series of modules and includes information and activities on how families and friends can help their loved ones, with a specific emphasis on the person providing the support and their often unmet needs. The program is also suitable for health professionals.

    For information on how to start a conversation with your loved one about their alcohol and or other drug use, tips on how to look after yourself and other resources visit our For Families mini-site.

    Cost

    The program is free and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

    Please note that for Health Professionals there are costs involved in the 5-step training. Details about the training can be found on the Health Professionals portal in FFSP (under the icon 5-step).

    The FFSP is supported by funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.

    More about Family and Friend Support Program
  • Adolescence and emerging adulthood are periods of significant brain growth and development. Scientists call the adolescent brain highly 'neuroplastic' because it is a time of organising, construction and strengthening of connections in the brain.3 different light globe animated characters

    1. Respect Your Brain animated series
    2. How do drugs affect the developing brain?
    3. Areas of the brain in development
    4. Alcohol and the developing brain
    5. Cannabis and the developing brain
    6. MDMA and the developing brain
    7. Getting help for drug and alcohol issues

    Animated series

    The Respect Your Brain animated video series focuses on the impact of three drugs commonly used in Australia and explores the way these drugs affect a young person’s developing brain.

    How do drugs affect the developing brain?

    Because the brain is highly neuroplastic during brain development (teens up to 25 years of age) there is the risk of damage.

    The way a drug effects a person depends on which part of the brain it targets. Some drugs have far reaching effects, for example alcohol can reach three areas of the brain where important functions occur, whilst other drugs may be more localised and specific, for example MDMA is attracted to the limbic system and binds strongly to areas such as the hypothalamus. Often, it’s the amount of the drug taken (dose) that influences the risk of harm to the brain. Because we are all different, the effects can vary from person to person and be more harmful for some.

    Areas of the brain in development

    There are three significant areas where brain function occurs, they are:


    Brain_Back-350.png


    Hindbrain (pons, cerebellum and medulla oblongata), which is responsible for balance and coordination and basic automatic functions like breathing and heart rate.
    Brain_Mid-350.png
    Subcortical midbrain (limbic system), which is responsible for our animal instincts, like our 'pleasure centre,' our flight or fight response and memory storage. It's also the home of the hypothalamus, which enables us to maintain internal balance and physical wellbeing despite changes or outside factors.
    Brain_Front-350.png
    Forebrain (cerebral cortex, including prefrontal cortex), which is responsible for our complex, high level thinking, like planning for the future and regulating our emotions.

    Alcohol and the developing brain

    Alcohol is a depressant which is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. It can affect the brain within five minutes of consumption (absorption may be slower if the person has recently eaten).

    Drinking, particularly heavy drinking, at any time before, during and after brain development, can have a negative effect on the way the brain works.

    Early alcohol use may interrupt cell growth in the frontal lobe of the brain, an area which does not reach full maturity until a person reaches their mid-twenties. The frontal lobe of the brain controls higher mental processes such as planning. Drinking alcohol interferes with brain development and harms can include poor attention, poor decision making and disrupts the ability to forward plan – impacting on mental health and educational performance and completion.

    Little is known about whether excessive alcohol consumption in teenage years leads to permanent changes to the brain. However, there is evidence that excessive drinking (more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion) can lead to young people taking risks and putting themselves in dangerous situations, such as drink driving and having unsafe sex.

    Cannabis and the developing brain

    Cannabis acts as a central nervous system depressant that also alters sensory perception.

    THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is the active ingredient in cannabis which is responsible for the mood-altering effects which can make people feel high. Synthetic cannabis functions in a similar way to THC.

    Cannabis can affect memory and attention, which can interfere with your ability to take in and remember new information. This can affect everyday life, particularly when learning something new or doing something difficult.

    Using cannabis regularly when you are young and your body is still developing increases your body's exposure to the harms associated with cannabis use, such as a higher risk of respiratory illness.

    Cannabis use can affect mental processing and if cannabis is used heavily over many years, persistent problems with memory, attention and the ability to handle complex information may be experienced.

    Early and heavy cannabis use may affect your choices and options in life, leading to impact on social and physical wellbeing (Cannabis Facts for Young People. National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, October 2011).

    MDMA and the developing brain

    Methylene DioxyMethAmphetamine (MDMA) – also called ecstasy – is a derivative of amphetamine and has both stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. Stimulants speed up the central nervous system and brain, and hallucinogens can cause people to see, hear, feel or smell things that do not exist.

    The effects of MDMA can start within an hour and typically last up to about six hours. Some effects may continue for up to 32 hours.

    MDMA affects your brain by increasing the activity of neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers of brain cells): serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

    Serotonin regulates mood, sleep, pain, appetite, and other behaviours. MDMA causes mood-elevating effects by releasing large amounts of serotonin. This release depletes the brain's supply of serotonin and some people can feel down or anxious the day after taking MDMA. Known as the 'come down', this may include sleep problems, feeling depressed and finding it hard to concentrate and can last for several days.

    MDMA may cause an increase in body temperature (hyperthermia) and dehydration. A body temperature of 40 degrees Celsius or higher is life-threatening. Some symptoms of over-heating include confusion, nausea or vomiting and rapid breathing.  MDMA can also cause fluid retention and water intoxication, which can also be life threatening.

    Mixing MDMA with alcohol or other drugs is also dangerous, mixing drugs can cause people to feel unwell and put their health and life in danger. Some drug interactions are of particular concern, they are:

    • MDMA and some of painkillers or antidepressants can lead to serotonin toxicity which can be fatal
    • MDMA, methamphetamine (ice and speed) and cocaine are all stimulants so if either drug are taken together the effects can be very unpleasant or lead to an overdose
    • MDMA with alcohol raises blood pressure and body temperature and increases the chance of dehydration and confusion, which could lead to taking more MDMA and the increased risk of overdose

    If someone shows the following signs of MDMA / ecstasy overdose an ambulance should be called immediately on Triple Zero (000).

    • Feeling really hot / overheating
    • Rigid muscles, tremors or spasms
    • Clenched jaw
    • Confusion or disorientation
    • Difficulty walking
    • Severe agitation or panic
    • Having difficulty breathing
    • Fast racing pulse / heart
    • Vomiting
    • Seizure
    • Unconsciousness

    Getting help for drug and alcohol issues

    There are lots of services that young people can call or chat with online if they have concerns about themselves of others, including their family. All of the following services are free and confidential (unless there is a risk of harm to them or someone else) and can be accessed anonymously.

    Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)
    ADIS is 24 hours 7 days a week free, confidential and anonymous telephone service, providing counselling, support, referrals and information for those affected by alcohol or other drugs.

    ADIS also provides Web Chat which is free, anonymous and confidential for people with concerns about alcohol or other drug use. Web Chat is available Monday to Friday 8.30am – 5pm (including public holidays).
    T: 1800 250 015

    Family Drug Support (FDS)
    FDS provides 24 hours 7 days a week free telephone support line for families and friends affected by alcohol and drug use.
    T: 1300 368 186

    Kids Helpline
    The Kids Helpline is a free, private, and confidential 24 hours, 7 days a week telephone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.
    T: 1800 55 1800

    ReachOut
    ReachOut is Australia's leading online mental health organisation for young people and their parents. They have a supportive, safe and anonymous forum space where people care about what's happening to you, because they've been there too.

    Lifeline
    Lifeline is a 24-hours 7 days a week free crisis support and suicide prevention service.
    T: 131 114

    More information

    Check out the A-Z of Drugs for more information.


    More about Drugs and the developing brain
  • PeerLine is confidential service run by the NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA). NUAA works to improve the health, welfare and dignity of people who use drugs. 

    PeerLine is a free, confidential peer supported telephone service for people who use drugs, who are on the Opioid Treatment Program or seeking treatment. Trained peers will help you with information, advice and advocacy

    NUAA-PeerLine-FullLogo.png

    PeerLine is available from 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).

    Call for free on 1800 644 413 or email peerline@nuaa.org.au to connect.

    Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm

    1800 644 413

    More about NUAA PeerLine
  • 1300 DRIVER provides education, information, one-off and ongoing support, and referrals for long haul truck drivers and their families with issues related to health, wellbeing, stress, anxiety, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

    1300 DRIVER (1300 374837) is anonymous, confidential and staffed by experienced health professionals 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Calls from landlines and mobile phones are the cost of a standard call. 

    The service is for long haul truck drivers who: 

    • have questions or experience issues related to alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
    • struggle with managing sleep, long hours, alertness and thinking about stimulants 
    • experience problems relaxing and getting sleep when home
    • struggle with thinking about substances as a way to come down
    • experience anxiety and stress issues as a result of the job demands
    • changing smoking habits to meet work demands

    1300 DRIVER is available via telephone on 1300 DRIVER (1300 374837), Twitter and online at 1300DRIVER.org.au.

    24 hour support line

    1300 374 837

    More about 1300 DRIVER
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