Alcohol FAQ

Have a question on Alcohol and it’s effects? We give you the answers here.

So what is Alcohol?

There are many varieties of alcohol. The type that is found in alcoholic drinks is known as Ethanol. 

Ethanol is a clear colourless liquid, chemical formula is CH3 CH2 OH and a depressant drug which impairs & slows down signals from the brain

It affects the way we think & behave and can become addictive.

Types of non-drinkable alcohol are found in a wide variety of household products such as mouthwash, perfume and deodorants.

There are many factors to be considered when looking at how alcohol will affect someone, for example age, size, pregnancy, mood, gender, medication and when they last ate. Any of these factors can influence how alcohol may affect an individual.

How does Alcohol affect the body?

When we drink Alcohol it passes down the food pipe (oesophagus) and into the stomach.

When in the stomach, 20% of the alcohol gets into our blood stream through the stomach walls.  The other 80% passes through the stomach, into the small intestines where it enters the blood stream. The liver cleans (processes) 1 unit of alcohol out of an adult body every hour.

What is a Unit of Alcohol?

In order to know how much we are drinking we need to know how much alcohol is in our drinks, we do this by measuring alcohol in units.

Units are calculated by multiplying the amount of liquid (volume) in millilitres in the drink and then multiplying it by the Alcohol By Volume ABV (% of alcohol). You then divide this by 1000 which tells you how many units are in the drink.

Example:  2 litre of strong cider. 2000mls  x 8% ABV = 16,000. This is then divided by 1000 and this tells us there are 16 units in the drink.

Cans and bottles now have the ABV and how many Units the drink contains printed on the label to save us having to do the maths.

The UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) issued revised drinking guidelines in January 2016 stating there is ‘no safe limit’ of alcohol consumption and recommending no more than 14 units per week for both men and women to keep risks low (equivalent to six pints of 4% beer or six 175ml 13% ABV glasses of wine). The guidelines make clear that there is ‘no safe level of consumption during pregnancy’. The guidelines also highlight the link between alcohol and cancer.

How much Alcohol do we drink in Scotland and how does it affect our health?

Across Scotland, alcohol-related hospital stays and deaths are higher in areas with higher alcohol outlet availability. Scottish neighborhoods with the most alcohol outlets have double the alcohol-related death rate compared to those with the fewest outlets. In deprived areas there are 40% more places to buy alcohol than in more affluent areas. Up to 51,000 children are estimated to live with a problematic drinker.

More alcohol continues to be sold per adult in Scotland than in England and Wales. In 2015, 20% more alcohol was sold in Scotland. This was mainly due to higher sales of lower-priced alcohol through supermarkets and off-licences, particularly vodka.

Drinking alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for chronic diseases along with smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity. Alcohol causes more than 60 conditions including oral, breast and bowel cancers, liver disease and cardiovascular disease.

These are largely preventable illnesses which reduce healthy life expectancy and put the NHS under immense strain.

It takes an average adult around an hour to process one unit of alcohol so that there’s none left in their bloodstream, although this varies from person to person.

What is Minimum Pricing on Alcohol?

There is a clear link between price, consumption and harm – as alcohol has become more affordable, consumption and harm have increased. This has been driven by supermarkets and corner shops selling alcohol for as little as 15p per unit.

Minimum pricing is a key measure in the Scottish Government’s alcohol strategy, and sets a price below which alcohol cannot be sold. Alcoholic drinks which are priced at less than the minimum price per unit at the date of implementation (1st May 2018) increased to 50p per unit.

How does Alcohol Affect Young People?

With 74% of all alcohol now sold in off-sales and drunk at home or in other private settings, more children are exposed to adults drinking. Up to 51,000 children are

estimated to live with a problematic drinker. Every family is different, but children who live with someone who drinks too much often say they feel scared, confused, stressed or angry when their parents are drinking.

Children are exposed to alcohol marketing every single day through advertising campaigns, the media, sponsorship and social networking sites. This means our children are growing up surrounded by positive messages about drinking. Research shows the more alcohol marketing they are exposed to, the more likely they are to drink at an earlier age and to drink more. Existing advertising codes fail to protect under 18s from alcohol advertising. It is proposed that this could be changed by

  • Removing alcohol adverts from cinemas for non-18 certificate films and before 9pm on television.
  • Removing alcohol advertising in public places including billboards and public transport.
  • Phased removal of alcohol sponsorship of sports, music and cultural events.
  • Establish an independent body to regulate alcohol marketing.

It is well known that alcohol in excess can have a damaging effect on the brain at all ages. This impact is particularly concerning in adolescence when the architecture of the brain is undergoing rapid and profound changes. Research has shown that the brain is particularly vulnerable at this time and that this period may extend into the early 20s. There is some evidence that the damage inflicted at this early age may have long term consequences.

Children and young people need support in dealing with what are often confused feelings and emotions towards their parents and families alcohol use.

How Can I Cut Down On My Drinking?

The Chief Medical Officers’ advice for men and women who wish to keep their short-term health risks from single occasion drinking episodes to a low level is to reduce them by:

• Limiting the total amount of alcohol you drink on any single occasion

• Drinking more slowly, drinking with food, and alternating with water

• Plan ahead to avoid problems e.g. by making sure you can get home safely or that you have people you trust with you.

If you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it’s best to spread your drinking evenly over three or more days & have several drink-free days each week.

If you want to cut down the amount you drink, a good way to achieve this is to:

  • Drink a spacer not a chaser, drink water or soft drinks in between alcoholic drinks.
  • Eat something before you drink, drinking on an empty stomach increases the effects as it is absorbed into the bloodstream quicker and it may lead to damage to your stomach lining.
  • Try not to get into buying rounds as this can lead to you keeping up with the fastest drinker and can lead to you drinking more than you wanted.
  • Never drink and drive, there is no safe limit for drinking alcohol and driving.
  • Have at least one or two alcohol free days per week.
  • Try lower strength drinks or non alcoholic drinks.
  • Never drink just to get drunk.
  • Respect those who don’t want to drink, never force someone to take a drink.
  • Pace yourself take smaller sips and put your glass down between sips.
  • Treat alcohol with respect, remember it’s a DRUG.

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