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Alcohol is dangerous in two main ways. First, while you are drinking, alcohol increases the risk of accidents and injuries. For example, falls, head injuries, road traffic accidents, poisoning, drowning and injuries caused by violence. Over a quarter of visits to hospital accident and emergency departments are alcohol related. In the longer term, alcohol causes or increases the risk of a number of mental health problems and diseases such as cancer, heart disease, liver disease and high blood pressure. Drinking above low-risk drinking guidelines over a long period can also lead to dependence on alcohol.

Legal doesn’t mean safe. Although alcohol is an accepted and even loved part of our culture, it causes all kinds of harm – not just illness and addiction, but public order offences like fighting and robbery, road traffic accidents, domestic violence, personal relationship problems and mental health conditions like depression. There are almost twice as many deaths due to alcohol in Ireland as due to all other drugs combined.

Individual reactions to alcohol vary, and are influenced by many factors; such as:

  • Age Gender
  • Race or ethnicity
  • Physical condition (weight, fitness level, etc)
  • Amount of food consumed before drinking
  • How quickly the alcohol was consumed
  • Use of drugs or prescription medicines
  • Family history of alcohol problems

Read more about different reactions to alcohol

A hangover is a group of different symptoms causes by the effect of alcohol on various parts of the body. Symptoms can include tiredness, dehydration, headache, feeling low or depressed and feeling sick. Read more about hangovers

  • Loss of balance, loss of coordination, confusion
  • Feeling sick (nausea) and being sick (vomiting)
  • Slow breathing (less than 8 breaths a minute)
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Low body temperature
  • Skin that is cold and clammy or pale and bluish
  • Stupor (being unresponsive) or unconsciousness (passing out)

Read more about alcohol poisoning and what to do in an emergency

Alcohol acts a bit like an anaesthetic drug – it affects the central nervous system. As you drink more, the amount of alcohol in your blood increases, affecting coordination, judgement, sight, hearing and reaction times. A very high concentration of alcohol in the blood can cause unconsciousness and even death.

Read more: Getting drunk - The effect of alcohol on your body

Alcohol travels in your blood to every part of your body. It is absorbed quickly, and the effects can be felt within minutes. The more alcohol is in your blood (called blood alcohol concentration), the stronger the effect will be on your body. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down your body's responses in all kinds of ways. Alcohol impacts on virtually every cell and organ system in the body. In the short-term: Alcohol can make you more likely to misjudge situations, take risks or lose self-control, putting you at risk of accidents and doing something you may regret. In the longer term: Alcohol can cause dependence and increase the risk of mental health problems and a range of illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and liver disease. Read more about alcohol’s effects on the body.

Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is toxic, addictive, sedative drug found in beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches. advice.

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