Food Fact Sheet

What is Alcohol?

The main active ingredient in alcohol is ethanol, which results from the fermentation of sugar by yeast. The vast majority of alcohol for consumption is readily available in the form of beverages, and is easily accessible.

What are the Effects?

When you drink, alcohol quickly enters the bloodstream spreading all over the body. It affects the brain making you relax and lose your inhibitions. Alcohol also influences the central nervous system, which controls many of your body's other functions - senses, speech and sense of pain.

Alcohol has a diuretic effect, your body gets rid of more liquid than it takes in, so you'll become dehydrated.

The Law

It is illegal to drive while over the legal limit of alcohol consumption. The best advice is not to drink and drive. Most young people are likely to try alcohol and it is illegal to sell to a person under the age of 18.

What are the Risks?

High levels of alcohol consumption can damage organs of the body, as well as causing psychological harm. It has been linked to a wide range of illnesses, such as the increased risk of cancers, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal complications and liver disease.

Excessive alcohol consumption can also have detrimental social and psychological consequences. Alcohol is a mood altering substance which can lead to loss of control, aggressive behaviour and causes harm and distress to families and others.

Alcohol suppresses pain which is part of the problem, because it can suppress awkward feelings and also produce feelings of well-being and confidence.

Use in the UK

The Office for National Statistics says the number of alcohol-related deaths each year in the UK more than doubled between 1991 and 2005, and about 40 per cent of all A&E admissions are alcohol-related.

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