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Alcohol factsGlasses of alcohol of different types

What is alcohol?

Effects of alcohol


Further information




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Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied on in this way. Individuals wanting medical advice on this issue should consult a health professional.

What is alcohol?

Alcohol is a depressant drug, which means it slows down the messages travelling between the brain and the body.1

Other names

Booze, grog, piss, liquor, charge, nip.

Effects of alcohol

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It's important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

Alcohol affects everyone differently, based on:

  • Size, weight and health
  • Whether the person is used to taking it
  • Whether other drugs are taken around the same time
  • The amount drunk
  • The strength of the drink


The following effects may be experienced:

  • Feeling relaxed
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Slower reflexes 
  • Increased confidence
  • Feeling happier or sadder, depending on your mood1,2


If a lot of alcohol is consumed the following may also be experienced:

  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Clumsiness 
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Passing out
  • Coma
  • Death1,2,3


The following day, the effects of a hangover may be experienced including:

  • Headache
  • Diarrhoea and nausea
  • Tiredness and trembling 
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure 
  • Dry mouth and eyes 
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Anxiety 
  • Restless sleep4,5

Sobering up

To sober up takes time. The liver gets rid of about one standard drink an hour. Sweating it out with exercise, cold showers, coffee, fresh air and/or vomiting will not speed up the process. They may ease the symptoms, but they do not remove alcohol from the bloodstream any faster. This means it may not be safe to drive or work the following day.4,5

Long term effects

Regular use of alcohol may eventually cause:

  • Regular colds or flu
  • Difficulty getting an erection (males)
  • Depression
  • Poor memory and brain damage
  • Difficulty having children (males and females)
  • Liver disease
  • Cancer
  • High blood pressure and heart disease
  • Needing to drink more to get the same effect
  • Dependence on alcohol
  • Financial, work and social problems5

Drinking alcohol with other drugs

The effects of drinking and taking other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:

Alcohol + cannabis: nausea, vomiting, panic, anxiety and paranoia.

Alcohol + energy drinks (with caffeine), ice, speed or ecstasy: more risky behaviour, body under great stress, overdose more likely.

Alcohol + GHB or benzodiazepines: decreased heart rate, overdose more likely.5


Giving up alcohol after drinking it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Please seek advice from a health professional.

Withdrawal symptoms usually start about 4 to 12 hours after the last drink and can last for about 4 to 5 days. These symptoms can include:

  • Sweating
  • Tremors 
  • Nausea 
  • Anxiety, irritability, difficulty sleeping
  • Seizures or fits
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Death5


Information about withdrawal

Further information


Reducing the risks



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1. Brands B; Sproule B; & Marshman J. (Eds.) (1998) Drugs & Drug Abuse (3rd Ed.) Ontario: Addiction Research Foundation.

2. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.(n.d.). Alcohol's effect on the body.

3. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (5th ed). Washington: American Psychiatric Publishing.

4. Mayo Clinic. (2014). Diseases and Conditions - Hangovers.

5. Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs. (2013). Alcohol.


Last updated: 3 May 2016

Information you heard is intended as a general guide only. This audio is copyrighted by the Australian Drug Foundation. Visit for more