What You Need to Know

General information

Alcohol is Ethanol or Ethyl Alcohol. It's street names are Booze, Tipple, Tot, Nip, Bevy. 

Alcohol is produced by fermenting fruits, vegetables or grain. Alcohol is widely used in Wales and has become part of the Welsh culture. Alcohol comes in different strengths and is measured as a percentage by volume. The higher the percentage volume the stronger the drink will be.

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Your child and alcohol

  • Some parents may feel that giving their child a small amount of alcohol in their early teens will give them a responsible attitude to alcohol. There is no scientific evidence to support this.
  • In fact, research shows that the earlier a child starts drinking the higher his or her risk of serious alcohol-related problems later in life.
  • During late adolescence the brain is still growing – there are parts that will not be fully developed until individuals are in their early 20s. The part of the brain that is involved in planning and judgment matures late, as does the part relating to long-term memory and learning. By drinking, young people could prevent these parts of the brain developing properly.
  • Government guidance about drinking states there is no 'zero risk' way to drink alcohol, and there are health benefits.
  • Young people are generally smaller and weigh less than adults, so alcohol is more concentrated in their bodies and they feel the effects of alcohol more quickly and for longer. Young people may also be less able to judge or control their drinking.



The possible risks associated with alcohol use

  • inappropriate and / or aggressive classroom behaviour
  • poor coping skills
  • early age of first drug use increases likelihood of long term substance misuse
  • possible involvement in anti-social or criminal behaviour such as fights, damaging property or causing annoyance in the community which can lead to a child being involved with the Police
  • increased risk taking e.g. links with sexual activity
  • offending
  • violence (including domestic)
  • accidents / hospital admissions
  • increased chance of being a victim of assault or other crimes
  • physical and mental health problems
  • poor school performance (cause and effect)
  • hangover
  • very large amounts can lead to loss of consciousness
  • mixing alcohol with the use of some other drugs can lead to fatal overdosing
  • dependency (alcoholism)
  • long term drinking can lead to damage to the liver, heart, stomach and brain
  • raised blood pressure
  • weight gain
  • uncontrollable shaking.



Think Units!

  • There are recommended daily guidelines for adults – yes adults! – not for young people under the age of 18. Drinking above these increases the risk of damage to your health. Risks include cancer, heart disease and stroke.
  • What are the recommended daily guidelines for adults?
  • Men and women should not drink more than 3–4 units in any one day.
  • These guidelines are for adult drinkers – they do not apply to people under 18, people on medication, pregnant women or older people.


How many units are there in different drinks? 

Drink Number of Units
Beer 1 Pint (568 ml) 2.3
Premium Beer 1 Pint 2.8
Premium Beer: Bottle (330 ml) 1.7
Wine: Large Glass (250 ml) 3.0
Wine: Standard Glass (175 ml) 2.1
Wine: Bottle (750 ml) 9.0
Champagne: Glass (125 ml) 1.5
Clear Spirits (35 ml) Gin, Vodka, Light Rum 1.3
Alcopop (275 ml)    1.4
Dark Spirits (35 ml) 1.4
Cream Liqueur (50 ml) 0.9
Vermouth (50 ml) 0.8
Strong Cider (275 ml) 2.1
Regular Cider (1 Pint) 2.8



The majority of the alcohol you drink is broken down by the liver. How long does the liver take to break down the alcohol in a "unit" of drink (8 grams alcohol) of an alcoholic beverage?

The liver breaks down the majority of alcohol consumed (95%), eventually into carbon dioxide and water. Your liver needs an hour to break down a standard glass of an alcohol and there’s nothing you can do to speed this up. This explains why someone who has drunk a lot the night before can still be under the influence or ‘over the limit the following morning. The last 5% is excreted via urine, breath and perspiration.


Alcohol affects men and women differently

Women's bodies are generally smaller and have less body water, so alcohol concentrations rise more quickly. Therefore women can’t drink as much as men. It’s a biological fact! 

Women have less body water than men so the concentration of alcohol in their blood stream is proportionally higher. So, if a woman weighing 60 kilograms drinks a double vodka then comparatively a man of the same size will need to drink a triple in order to reach the same blood alcohol level.

There is also some evidence that women break down alcohol slightly differently. The enzyme ADH breaks down alcohol in the liver and in the lining of the stomach; and women have less of it, so alcohol is broken down more slowly.


The effects of drinking alcohol

Drinking alcohol affects your body, your judgement, your behaviour, your personality and your perception, initially usually in a pleasant way, but this can change after a drink or two. Legal BAC levels exist for driving as your reaction times slow even after one drink, which is why you are advised not to drink while operating machinery or at heights for example. 

Too much alcohol can make you act out of character – saying things you shouldn’t, acting in an embarrassing way, getting into arguments, or having unsafe sex or sex you’ll later regret. Your risk of getting into a fight and having things like you phone stolen also increases.


Pregnant women are advised not to drink.

Alcohol can harm an unborn baby in various ways. Alcohol can harm the unborn baby as it passes through the placenta to the foetus. Because no safe level of drinking has been established for pregnant women then the best advice is not to drink at all.

The Alcohol Guidelines Review (January 2016) states that there is no way to drink without risk.  If you drink heavily during pregnancy, then the risk of various birth defects increase significantly.  These abnormalities are called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.


Times when adults should avoid drinking any alcohol

There are certain occasions when you shouldn’t drink, and these include if you work with machinery or at heights, as even small amounts of alcohol affect your coordination, reactions and judgement.

Other times you should avoid alcohol include; when planning to drive, use electrical equipment, competing at sport, while on certain medications – (ask your Doctor if you are unsure) or when pregnant.


Alcohol and driving

Alcohol has a negative effect on your co-ordination, perception and judgment

The alcohol you drink passes through the stomach and into the small intestine, where it is absorbed into the blood-stream. From there it affects your nervous system. Alcohol affects signals in the brain and so slows down sensory perception, judgement and co-ordination.

This explains why drinking alcohol affects what you see, how you think and feel and how you move and react. How much effect alcohol has on the body depends on the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) i.e. the volume of alcohol in your blood. This is why here in the UK the government sets legal BAC levels at 80mg.

When you’re going out, always discuss and plan how you’re getting home before you leave, or decide who will be the non drinking driver.

If you’re ever tempted to drink and drive you face a fine of up to £5,000 and/or six months in prison with the loss of your licence. You could receive a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment if you are responsible for a road traffic collision, or injury to another, whilst drink driving.


The most common risk associated with alcohol consumption by young people

By far the most common risk you take when you drink alcohol is having an accident. It’s true that people who drink regularly over a long period of time may get liver disease (there are 25 year-olds dying from cirrhosis), and occasionally some people who really overdo it end up in a coma.

Alcohol affects your co-ordination, balance and judgement and many young people every year end up with facial injuries or broken bones – or occasionally even serious disabilities.

Approximately 20% of all admissions to A&E are linked to drinking and 22% of accidental deaths are alcohol related in the UK.


The safe limit for alcohol consumption for young people under 18

There is no safe limit for alcohol consumption when you’re under 18. Young people are less well equipped to cope with the effects of alcohol, physically and emotionally. This is because the body and brain have not developed fully yet, and are more affected by alcohol than an adult’s would be.


Those who persistently drink too much can become addicted to alcohol. Why is it so difficult to kick an alcohol addiction?  

Alcoholics feel wretched without alcohol. There is alcohol tolerance and alcohol addiction.

Tolerance is when you gradually need more and more alcohol to achieve the same effect.

Addiction means that you can no longer cope without alcohol. You feel you have to drink. Without alcohol you feel sick and have withdrawal symptoms. You start trembling, shivering, feel nauseous or even have to vomit. These withdrawal symptoms make it very difficult to overcome addiction, and specialist help and support are required.

Facts about alcohol 

  1. Young people aged 16 plus tend to drink greater quantities of alcohol and more regularly. The trend has been for young people to drink more alcohol with more binge drinking and drunkenness.

  2. Some young people die from overdosing on alcohol and many more are rushed to hospital to have their stomachs pumped.

  3. Between 25,000 and 35,000 people die each year in the UK from alcohol-related accidents, illnesses and overdose.

  4. Recent national surveys have found that 16% of 11 year olds, rising to 81% of 15 year olds have had at least one alcoholic drink. The number of 11 to 15 year olds who have tried alcohol has fallen in recent years, but of those who do drink, average weekly consumption has more than doubled since 1990.

  5. Two in every five Welsh 15 year olds say they drink alcohol weekly. Half have been drunk at least twice in their lifetime. This means that as a parent the subject of your child and alcohol is likely to come up.

  6. 29% of 18–24 year olds in Wales admit to criminal and disorderly behaviour during or after drinking.

  7. Amongst 11 year olds in Wales 7% of boys and 4% of girls reported that they drank alcohol at least once a week – for 13 year olds, this figure rose to 23% of boys and 20% of girls.

  8. Amongst 15 year olds in Wales 54% of boys and 52% of girls reported being drunk at least twice in their lifetime.