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What is alcohol?


Alcohol is a drug found in all alcoholic drinks like beer, wine and spirits such as vodka and whiskey.

Alcohol is a depressant drug. It slows down various sections of the brain and the central nervous system.

This affects your ability to control your behaviour and your bodily functions, like thinking, talking, walking and even breathing. 

Alcohol is also described as a psychoactive drug. This means a drug that affects the mind, or mental processes.

While some drinks have more alcohol than others, the type of alcohol in all alcoholic drinks is the same – it’s a type of alcohol called ethanol. Alcohol is a colourless, odourless and inflammable fluid.

Alcohol’s effects are similar to the effects of drugs that put us to sleep during an operation

Ireland’s drug of choice

Alcohol is by far the most commonly used drug in Ireland. Around 8 out of 10 people in Ireland drink alcohol.¹

A part of our lives

Alcohol is a part of many people’s lives in Ireland – from a pint after work to a big night out, from a glass of wine at home to a family celebration. Many people feel it’s a positive part of our lives and our identity.

An 'acceptable' drug?

The ‘craic’, the go-to stress-reliever, something to turn to when things are hard or an essential part of social life. Because it’s so much a part of our lives and culture, we often don’t think of it as a drug in the way we might think of other drugs like cocaine, marijuana, heroin and prescription drugs. And sometimes we underestimate the harm it can do.

Read more

What does alcohol have in common with other drugs?

Why does alcohol affect people differently?

What happens when we get drunk?

Why does alcohol make me ill when I drink too much? Alcohol poisoning

The morning after - Hangovers and feeling down

¹ Healthy Ireland Survey, 2015. Dublin, Stationery Office

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