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Jellinek
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Alcohol

Other names for alcohol

Booze, drink, spirits, liquor, schnapps.

What is alcohol?

What alcohol is:

  • Alcohol is a ‘downer’
  • Most beers contain 5% or more alcohol, wines 12% and spirits 30% to 40%
  • Mixed drinks and alcopops contain 5% to 8% alcohol
  • Shots (spirits in small bottles) can contain up to 35% alcohol
  • Alcohol disperses throughout your body
  • Young people and women have lower amounts of bodily fluids. If you’re a woman or you’re not fully grown, the same drink will put more alcohol into your blood.

Effects of alcohol

After a couple of drinks, you feel cheerful and relaxed.

  • You feel more self-confident and talkative.
  • If you keep drinking, you get overconfident. You soon have more trouble reacting to situations.
  • If you still keep drinking, your cheerful mood may disappear.
  • You have more trouble talking, walking and focusing your eyes.

Short term risks of alcohol

What are the risks of drinking alcohol?

  • You can get blackouts and forget what happened the night before. A blackout is a temporary lapse of memory, whereby information from your short-term memory is not transferred to your long-term memory. You may not know the next day what you did or where you were on the night before. Greyouts are fragmentary blackouts in which you remember parts of what happened and forget others.
  • You can get hangovers and feel headachy and queasy all day.
  • You can get alcohol poisoning and pass out from drinking large amounts. If you drink so much alcohol that you pass out or lose consciousness, your breathing can stop altogether. Alcohol poisoning can be fatal. In adults, a blood alcohol concentration of 4 per mil is enough to cause alcohol poisoning. Adolescents admitted to hospital with alcohol poisoning have been found to have BACs averaging 1.9 per mil. Boys weighing 50 kilos reach that level after 7 standard drinks and girls after 6 drinks.

Long term risks of alcohol

  • Heart and blood vessels: greater risk of high blood pressure and brain haemorrhaging, as well as heart attacks, heart failure and heart rhythm disturbances
  • Gastritis (inflamed stomach lining): bloated feeling, burping, stomach ache and heartburn
  • Liver disease: chronic liver damage arising from excessive metabolisation of alcohol by the liver
  • Cancer: evidence-based higher risks of alcohol-related cancer of the bowel, breast, oesophagus and mouth; greater risk of liver cancer linked to heavy drinking
  • Pancreatitis: inflammation of the pancreas caused by excessive stimulation of fluid secretion
  • Brain injury: reduced brain functioning, as alcohol affects all brain functions; higher risk of brain injury from a long-term average weekly consumption of 25 standard units; up to 15% brain shrinkage from excessive alcohol consumption
  • Psychosis: alcohol-induced psychosis, with delusions and hallucinations triggered by excessive alcohol intake
  • Emaciation: loss of appetite due to the satiated feeling you get from alcohol
  • Alcohol makes you fat. One beer contains over 100 calories, a small glass of wine has 80 and a mixed drink has 170 calories.
  • Dependency and addiction. Alcohol is an addictive substance, both physically and mentally. Nearly half of all patient applications to Dutch addiction services are for alcohol treatment. If you have been drinking a lot of alcohol for a long period of time, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, including shakiness, sweating, anxiety, panic, serious tensions and sleep disturbances. People who start drinking at a young age have a higher risk of alcohol addiction, and the risk is especially high for males under age 24. The risk is also higher if you use alcohol to alter your mood.

Alcohol test

The following test will help you discover whether you are taking too many risks. Once you’ve answered the questions, you’ll receive the test results, with information about your score. Depending on your score, we’ll make certain recommendations.

Alcohol in the brain and in the body

Watch our animations to see how alcohol works in the brain and what route it takes through the body.

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