Information Centre


Alcohol, Drugs and Addiction

Alcohol, as you probably know, is a drug that’s legal here and in most other parts of the world.

The legal drinking age in Ireland is 18 years-old, but it varies from country to country (something to keep in mind so you don’t get in to hot water if you’re travelling).

To be honest, we know that drinking alcohol is a central part of many cultures and ours especially.

Having a drink to celebrate or have fun with your friends can be grand once you’re sensible about it.

But, some reasons for drinking aren’t so healthy, like boredom, or to forget about your problems, or to keep up with your mates.

Sometimes the way we drink isn’t so healthy either. It’s something to think about.

Informing yourself

The point of this section isn’t to be preachy. There’s nothing worse than young people being lectured about things older people do all the time.

Instead, this is about giving you information about what the effects of alcohol are so you can make good decisions about it.

It’s also to let you know what to do if alcohol is becoming a problem for you or someone you know.

The effects of alcohol

The effects of alcohol vary from person to person. Some of the factors that influence how someone might be affected by alcohol include:

  • how much they’ve had to drink, and the strength of what they’re drinking (three beers produces a different affect to three vodkas)
  • how quickly they have drunk the alcohol (this can make a big difference, ‘knocking it back’ isn’t the best plan)
  • whether they’ve eaten
  • whether they’ve taken any other drugs
  • how regularly they drink in general
  • their mood when they are drinking
  • their age, sex and body weight
  • if they’ve been binge-drinking (binge drinking means drinking heavily over a short period of time or drinking constantly over a number of days or weeks.)

In other words, you need to get to know your own limits. Remind yourself if you’re tired or you haven’t eaten, you’ll be more effected by a drink than you’d intended.

Know your limits

The Ask About Alcohol website recommends the following drink limitations.

Recommended limits for guys:

Up to 17 standard drinks per week is considered a low health-risk for most men. That works out as no more than four standard drinks a day on average, with an occasional maximum of six. (Remember that a pint counts as more than one drink here.)

There should always be at least two days a week when you don’t drink.

Recommended limits for girls:

Up to 11 standard drinks a week is considered a low health-risk for most women. This would be no more than two standard drinks a day on average, with an occasional maximum of four standard drinks.

Again, you need to make sure there’s at least two days that are alcohol-free.

What’s a standard drink?

A standard drink has 10 grams of pure alcohol. Knowing how many standard drinks you’re having may help you in managing your alcohol use. Different types of alcoholic drinks contain different amounts of pure alcohol. The following are examples of standard drinks:

  • 285ml glass of beer
  • 100ml glass of table wine (a small glass – this is generally not the size you get in pubs)
  • 30ml of spirits (one shot).

The general guidelines are that men shouldn’t regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol per day, and women shouldn’t regularly drink more than two to three units of alcohol per day.

Your body gets rid of about one standard drink per hour. Remember, alcohol is not always served as standard drinks.

Effects of alcohol

Some of the basic effects of alcohol include:

  • feeling more confident
  • feeling sleepy
  • losing balance or feeling dizzy.

Some of the negative effects you should be prepared for:

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows the time it takes to respond to things. It can affect your coordination (spilling your drink much?) and, on a serious note, your judgment. So you have to be really careful you don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation where you might not react the way you would normally

Drinking too much or more than you’re used to can make you vomit or pass out 

Violence – Alcohol can increase people’s likelihood of getting aggressive or violent. Violence is really not OK, so if you’re getting violent when you drink then you need to look at cutting down or managing your drinking better. If you’re around someone who is being aggressive because of alcohol, keep your cool and keep your distance.

Alcohol can also have serious long-term effects on your health if you drink too much and too often.. Some of these effects include liver damage, hallucinations, memory loss and stomach damage. Definitely things to avoid.

Drinking too much can also cause you to feel moody or anxious, which can cause problems with your friends and tension at home.