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News Stories About Alcohol

New information about substance abuse appears daily. For a somewhat random selection of stories relating to alcohol click here for the alcohol news archive.

 What does it do?

Many people believe alcohol to be a stimulant.  This is based on the exuberant behaviour of drunks but, physically, alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system. In the early stages of drunkenness, this suppression may have most effect on the inhibitions thus producing the loud, excessively friendly or excessively aggressive drunk. It is said that alcohol will enhance the mood of the drinker so that a happy person becomes a happy drunk and vice versa.

Alcohol is metabolised by the liver so regular consumption of large amounts can result in the liver being unable to cope and becoming damaged.

Is it Addictive?

Alcoholics exhibit the three criteria often cited for addiction. They develop tolerance for alcohol requiring increasing amounts to achieve the same effects or, more commonly for many alcoholics, functioning apparently normally in spite of consuming large amounts of alcohol. They suffer physical symptoms ranging from nausea, headache and sweating to confusion, trembling and hallucinations, called delirium tremens. Alcoholics also exhibit cravings which can only be satisfied by having a drink. An alcoholic will need to drink at most times of the day from the very early morning to late at night.

Is it Harmful?

In the UK around 30,000 deaths a year are believed to be alcohol related. Many of these are the result of acute liver failure resulting from long-term use of alcohol though heart disease and stomach cancer may also be the result of excessive consumption of alcohol.

UNODC estimates that there are 2 million alcohol related deaths a year but does not offer a detailed breakdown of the precise causes of those deaths.

But, to a far larger degree than almost all the other substances in the 'Phantastica', alcohol also causes harm to non-users by the actions of users. There will be those who say that 'drug' users cause harm to non-users as a result of their need to rob to fund their drug use but, in reality, that harm is caused by the substance being illegal and not as a direct result of the substance itself.

Drunk drivers are unable to fully control their vehicles and do cause a number of fatalities every year. Around 3,500 people a year, in the UK, are killed or seriously injured due to drunk driving, though that figure includes drunk drivers as well as innocent victims of their actions.

Drunks are also more likely to be violent than users of other substances causing harm to friends, family and strangers as a result.

And, at a lower level, the behaviour and activities of large numbers of drunks, whether vomiting or urinating in the street or simply causing disruption by their noisy, uninhibited activities can make other people reluctant to go out into town or city centres at night thus affecting their quality of life.