Alcohol illustration


Booze, liquor, spirits, wine, beer, cocktails, long drinks

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Alcohol, or ethanol, is the most commonly used recreational drug in the world due to its legal status in most countries. This allows for labelling of alcoholic products by a percentage alcohol by volume, which allows the person drinking it to know how strong their drink is. This drug makes people feel happy and it clearly acts as a social lubricant in many occasions. It is often an accompaniment to meals or to celebrations. Alcohol has been consumed for thousands of years and it is now totally integrated in most countries. However, it is one of the most harmful drugs for society and individuals1.


Drink water

Drink some water after each drink. You will reduce the chances of overdrinking and getting hangovers!


Careful mixing

If you are mixing with another substance, make sure its not a dangerous combination.


Safe sex

Always practice safe sex; take a condom with you.


Here are the most common effects of alcohol. You won’t necessarily experience all these effects, every time you consume the drug, and it is possible that you may feel other effects not listed here.

The effects are (from positive to negative):

  • Relaxation
  • Happiness
  • Increased sociability
  • Slurred speech
  • Flushed skin
  • Sleepiness
  • Blurry, distorted vision
  • Higher impulsivity
  • Decreased coordination
  • Nausea, vomiting (vomiting while unconscious can kill! If a friend is unconscious due to alcohol, position the person in the recovery position)
  • Reduced ability to judge own impairment
  • Emotional volatility (anger, violence, sadness, etc)
  • Sexual dysfunctions (e.g. erectile dysfunction or difficulty reaching orgasms)
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Blackouts and memory loss at high doses

Dose and onset

How? How Much? When? For how Long?

As with any drug, the correct dose for you depends on factors such as weight, gender, metabolism, whether you have taken the drug recently or not, amongst many others. Read our Dosing and Tolerance section in Me for more information.

How you take it matters...

The most common method to alcohol consumption is oral, which we recommend as it is the best way to gauge how much you've had. Recently new trends, such as inhaling, have appeared but these are ill-understood and can be very dangerous. If you want to learn more about how the method of administration affects you, read our Me section.

How much?

Alcohol is metabolised relatively quickly, however, it is more difficult for the body to get rid of the toxins with increasing alcohol dosages. Therefore, we suggest to limiting your alcohol doses if you want to be on the safe side!

People are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week. Spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week.

What is a unit in the UK?

Alcohol units

Source: NHS

Take this quiz on Quizmeter to compare how much you drink to others like you.

When do the effects kick in?

  • Total duration: 1.5 - 3 hrs
  • Onset: 15 - 30 mins
  • Coming up: 15 - 20 mins
  • Plateau: 30 - 90 mins
  • Coming down: 45 - 60 mins



Alcohol + ? =

Select a drug

Click one of the drugs below and see how it mixes with Alcohol.


Harm Reduction

  1. Carry condoms.
  2. Eat before you drink and stay hydrated; it can reduce the chances of getting a hangover or accidentally drinking over your limit.
  3. Don’t go out drinking alone, this will increase the chance of unpleasant experiences, unsafe circumstances, and risky behaviour.
  4. Avoid drinking out of impulse because of reaction to anger, this can lead to bad drinking episodes.
  5. To control for diseases such as cancer, the best policy is to reduce the amount of alcohol that is taken. You can do this by counting the drinks you have in a day and set targets to reduce them.
  1. Don’t drink and drive. As easy as it sounds, people still do it, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths per year.
  2. Control the amount of drinks you have and the speed at which you drink them if you are susceptible to blackouts.
  3. Avoid getting drinks spiked with other drugs by following simple steps.

In an emergency or overdose

  • Stay calm and try to not look anxious in front of the person that needs help. Before approaching or touching the person, explain what you intend to do in a direct and reassuring manner.
  • Keep the person still and comfortable. Don't let him/her walk alone.
  • Do not administer any food, drink or medication --including aspirin or vitamins --which may cause stomach distress.
  • Do not ridicule or threaten the person.
  • Do not let the person sleep on his/her back. Death from choking on inhaled vomit may result. Place the person on his/her side, with one arm extended above the head. Keep a sober person nearby to watch for signs of trouble.

Important: Remember, only time will help to sober a person who is intoxicated. Walking, black coffee or a cold shower will not help. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, and reduce the hangover.

Seek medical attention if:

  • The person is unconscious and cannot be wakened
  • Breathing is irregular and/or shallow
  • You suspect alcohol has been mixed with other drugs
  • Skin is clammy or pale
  • Blood in vomit

Source: Erowid

Alcohol hangovers are considered to be worse than the day-after effects of nearly any other drug. Alcohol causes liver damage. Bad hangovers may indicate alcohol toxicity and should be avoided.

Occasional drinkers are more likely to get bad hangovers than regular ones.

They usually last for 1-36 hours.

The after effects include:

  • Headache
  • Bad mood
  • Thirst
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or dry-heaves
  • Dizziness that becomes worse with movement
  • Loud noises and bright lights cause pain/discomfort
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Muscle fatigue and pain
  • Sweating and tremors

Source: Erowid

The best way to reduce hangover effects is to drink water before, during and after the night. However, this will not completely remove it as it isn't just caused by dehydration.

Regarding vitamin B supplements, there is no evidence that these actually ‘cure’ hangovers, although they may work as a placebo.


Signs of dependence

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is an incredibly addictive drug. If you think you might be dependent on alcohol, these websites might be useful:

In the long term...

The Law

Due to its legal status, alcohol consumers wrongly classify the drug as ‘safe’, as it has been approved for consumption. The truth is that due to a drug safety measure (active dose/lethal dose), we know that alcohol is actually one of the most dangerous recreational drugs. Why? This concept compares how much you have to drink to get drunk to how much you have to drink to die, and alcohol has the highest level.

More information, references, useful links...


Should I consume alcohol to protect from heart problems?

There is evidence to suggest that low and moderate drinking (i.e., within the lower risk guidelines) can protect against coronary heart disease, but it is a relatively small effect and it's best to try other, safer methods first.

Does drinking water cancel out the effects of alcohol?

Water or soft drinks do not cancel the effects of alcohol. However, they do slow down the pace of alcohol intake. Water also helps reducing the dehydration, helping the hangover next morning.

Does mixing drinks makes you more drunk?

Mixing drinks does not cause your hangover as the alcohol content does not change. However, mixing can irritate the stomach even more, leading to unpleasant side effects.

Does coffee sober you up?

Coffee can make you more alert and awake, but does not reduce the effects caused by alcohol. This makes drunk driving especially dangerous due to the impaired judgement and the perceived state of alertness caused by the coffee.


Useful links

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  1. Nutt, D. J., King, L. A., & Phillips, L. D. (2010). Drug harms in the UK: a multicriteria decision analysis. The Lancet, 376(9752), 1558-1565.

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