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What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is something that affects both your body and mind. This can include the way you think, feel and act. What we mean by alcohol here is alcoholic drinks, such as beer, wine and spirits.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down your body’s responses in all kinds of ways. Just enough can make you feel sociable; too much and you’ll have a hangover the next day. Everyone’s tolerance is different.

It is legal for people 18 and over to buy and drink alcohol. Work out what your limits are and stay safe.

What are the effects of alcohol?

Alcohol is a depressant and generally slows down brain activity:
• A small amount can reduce feelings of anxiety and reduce inhibitions, which can help you feel more sociable.
• It can exaggerate whatever mood you’re in when you start drinking.
• Short term effects can last for a day or two, depending on how much you drank, including any hangover.
• Long term effects include damage to the brain, body and its organs. This can take years to develop and can lead to a wide range of serious health problems, like cancers, that you may not realise are due to alcohol.

What is a unit of alcohol?

A unit is a way of expressing the actual amount of pure alcohol that is in a drink. This allows you to compare how strong one type of alcoholic drink is to another type. For example:
• half a pint of lower-strength beer, lager or cider (ABV 3.6%), or a 25ml measure of spirits (ABV 40%) is 1 unit,
• one pint of stronger beer (ABV 5%) can be almost 3 units, and
• one large glass (250mls) of mid-strength wine (ABV 12-13%) can be over three units.

Check the label on drinks as they often show the number of alcohol units. If they don’t, you can calculate the units by multiplying its ABV (ABV is ‘alcohol by volume’ and shows you the strength of an alcoholic drink), by the volume of the drink (in mls) and then dividing by 1,000:

Remember that the more you have of a drink, and the stronger the drink, the more units you are drinking.

Drinking Alcohol – The facts

The Mix offers non-judgmental facts and advice about drink, drugs, legal highs and the side effects to allow you to make the right decisions.

Underage Drinking & the law

If a person is under 18 and drinking alcohol in public, they can be stopped, fined or arrested by police.

If you are under 18, it’s against the law:
• For someone to sell you alcohol
• To buy or try to buy alcohol
• For an adult to buy or try to buy alcohol for you
• To drink alcohol in licensed premises (eg a pub or restaurant)
However if you are 16 or 17 and accompanied by an adult, you can drink (but not buy) beer, wine or cider with a meal.

If you are 16 or under, you may be able to go to a pub (or premises primarily used to sell alcohol) if you are accompanied by an adult. However, this isn’t always the case. It can also depend on:
• The specific conditions for that premises
• The licensable activities taking place there

It’s not illegal for a child aged five to 16 to drink alcohol at home or on other private premises. It is illegal to give alcohol to children under 5.

Want to know more? Click for the laws and official guidance on underage drinking

Worried about your parents drinking?

Worried about your parents drinking? Drinking alcohol is deeply ingrained in British culture. It is something most of our parents, grandparents, family and friends do when they are socialising. If you are worried about someone else’s drinking there are places you can get help and information.

Dealing with a drunk mate emergency

Different factors affect the impact of alcohol on an individual. Everything from how much they’ve drunk to when they last ate, their physical shape and health can play a role, which means the effects from boozing can sometimes take people by surprise.

Vomiting, fainting and loss of consciousness are all associated with alcohol misuse. If you’re with someone who stops having a good time, and goes from bad to worse, some simple first aid steps could save their life.

For further tips check out this guide on looking after a drunk friend.

If you’re really worried about a mate who has drunk too much, or if they fall unconscious then call 999 and ask for an ambulance immediately. It might save a life and you won’t get into trouble.

Top tips for keeping safe

Go slow – pace yourself when drinking alcohol to minimise the risk of overdose.

Avoid mixing drugs and alcohol – mixing drugs and alcohol can have unpredictable side effects and put additional strain on your organs.

Make sure someone is there to look out for you – if you are using alone, tell someone where you are and what you are doing, or make sure you have a friend who isn’t drinking if you are in a group. It will mean someone can help if it goes wrong.

Keep hydrated – aim to sip a pint of water over an hour, particularly if you are dancing.

Protect yourself – if someone you don’t know well is offering you free drink or drugs, ask yourself what they might want in return. Know the risks and how to stay safe.

Who can help you? What services are available.

DELTA young people’s Drug and Alcohol Service provides information, advice and support to young people who are using drugs and/or alcohol. DELTA will not tell you what to do. However we will make sure you are fully aware of the risks and dangers of alcohol use, and encourage you to keep safe. The service can help you to cut down or stop using alcohol. You can if you wish self-refer in to our service, though depending on your age we may need permission for your parent or carer.

Telephone: 01724 298528
Address: 22-24 Cole Street
DN15 6QS

Relevant pages

Relevant links

Frank – Learn the facts about drugs, read real life stories and access helplines.

The Mix – Non-judgmental facts and advice about drugs, legal highs and the side effects to allow you to make the right decisions.

Rise Above – Explore issues and help you make the right choice for you

Drink Aware – Honest facts about alcohol

Alateen – Help and support for teenage friends and relatives of alcoholics

Just a few drinks – Alan tells how an evening of drinking alcohol led to a sequence of events that changed his life

Party Animals – If you’ve been invited to a party and told there will be “free” drink and or drugs, it could come at a price. Know the risks and how to stay safe.