Visit DrugFucked (www.drugfucked.tht.org.uk) for the lowdown on drugs, alcohol, sex and HIV meds, plus advice if you want help.
Alcohol: What’s the score?
Alcohol is the oldest and most widely used drug in the UK. It’s a mood-changing drug and a depressant but in small doses, it acts as a stimulant. The effects of alcohol are stronger on an empty stomach and mixing different types of drink makes you drunker and can result in a worse hangover.
Highs and lows
Alcohol heightens your mood, making you happier or more affectionate if you feel that way already. It can relax you, lower your inhibitions, and make you more sociable and confident.
If your mood is low, alcohol can make it lower, and it’s well known for causing aggression. When booze lowers your inhibitions, it can put you at risk of harm and affect your judgment.
Because it’s a depressant, alcohol slows down your body’s reactions, causing slurred speech, lack of coordination, blurred vision, sleepiness or passing
out. Other unwelcome effects are throwing up and dehydration – not having enough water in the body is the main cause of hangovers. Higher doses cause blackouts where you can’t remember what happened, and very high doses can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can kill.
Alcohol can lower your inhibitions and could make you feel affectionate, horny, sexually con dent, sexually assertive, or experimental. The numbing effect of booze can make it harder to come and drinking can stop you getting a hard-on.
Drink affects people’s judgment which can make them more likely to take risks during sex that could lead to them getting or passing on HIV.
Heavy drinking over a long period can lead to liver disease, cancers of the throat, mouth and liver, and brain damage. Excessive drinking kills thousands each year.
Addiction to alcohol can be physical, for example, the ‘shakes’ are a withdrawal symptom, or psychological, giving you an intense urge to keep drinking.
Useful to know
Drinking water between drinks and/or before sleeping cuts down on dehydration and hangover symptoms. Alcohol can make anxiety, depression or sleep problems worse, so should be treated with caution if you’re vulnerable to these. Coffee can’t sober you up. Only alcohol leaving your system over time does this.
Alcohol with other drugs
Depressants – because alcohol is a depressant drug, mixing it with other depressants like GHB, ketamine or tranquillisers can make you pass out or interfere with your breathing or heart which can kill. GHB-related overdoses and deaths often involve alcohol. It’s risky to take GHB if you have booze in your system.
MDMA – booze deadens the effects of MDMA and together both can dangerously dehydrate the body. MDMA-related deaths often involve alcohol.
Cocaine – in the body alcohol combines with cocaine to make cocaethylene, which can make the effects of the coke stronger. There’s a bigger risk of sudden death when people use cocaine and alcohol together.
HIV drugs – there are no significant bad reactions with moderate alcohol use, but if booze makes you throw up within an hour of taking HIV medication, the dose should be taken again.
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