Alcohol is a liquid fermented with starches that slows down the body’s functioning. It is the most commonly used substance that affects the Central Nervous System responses, resulting in loss of co-ordination and judgement.
Street names: Booze, Drinks, Dop, Jars and Juice
How is it used?
Alcohol is sold legally at liquor stores, restaurants, bars and grocery stores and is widely available. It is swallowed by the user. Alcohol varies in strength and type e.g. Spirits, Ciders, Beers and Wines, but all of these have a similar effect on the user.
Symptoms of Alcohol abuse:
- Trembling Hands
- Vomiting and Nausea
- Loss of appetite
- Smell of alcohol on the user’s clothes or breath
- Chewing gum, breath mints and freshener
- Hiding alcohol
- Withdrawn secretive behaviour – lying about drinking and the amount used, creating excuses to drink, and feeling anxious, defensive or guilty when the user is questioned about his/her drinking.
- Impaired co-ordination e.g. staggering walk
- Slowed reflexes e.g. slurred speech
- Decrease in concentration
What are the effects of Alcohol?
- Relaxation – relieves anxiety and tension
- Impaired judgement and loss of inhibition – the user will become adventurous and not think about the reasoning behind things.
- False confidence – the user becomes more sociable and talkative
- Initially the user will feel a happy ‘buzz’ once they have had a few drinks. As they continue to drink more they may become depressed
- Double vision (Seeing two of everything) and not being able to judge distance
- Aggression that could lead to violence
What are the long-term effects?
- Addiction – tolerance is built up quickly. This means that the user will have to drink more than before to get drunk. This causes a dependence on alcohol.
- High blood pressure
- Damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas
- Blackouts and memory loss
- Stomach ulcers (sores develop in the intestine)
- Risk of road accidents – “Drunk Driving”
- Alcohol poisoning – this occurs when the person has had too much to drink and it becomes toxic for the body.
- Decrease in sexual health
This can involve:
- Infertility in men and the inability to perform sexually (get an erection)
- Impaired judgement may lead to unprotected sex and result in HIV/AIDS.
- Teenage pregnancies with the risk of the baby having Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS babies suffer from low birth weight, mental and physical disabilities e.g. Retardation and learning problems
What happens when you STOP using?
When the user decides to stop drinking they will experience mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. Similar to Heroin and Benzodiazepines/ Tranquillisers, the user is advised to consult a doctor when they are thinking about stopping for supervised medical assistance.
These withdrawal symptoms include:
- Insomnia – problems sleeping
- Rapid heart beat
- Physical and mental discomfort
- Extreme tremors - within a day the user may experience hallucinations and convulsions. This can be frightening for the user