What is alcohol?

What is alcohol?

Drinking alcohol is a pretty popular social activity, but not many people knowwhat alcohol is made of and how it’s classified. As well as knowing what’s in alcohol, it can be helpful to find out aboutthe effects of alcohol and how alcohol is measured in standard drinks. These can all help with safe alcohol consumption.

What are some of the short-term effects of alcohol?

Depending on how much is taken and the physical condition of the individual, alcohol can cause:

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Distorted vision and hearing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Decreased perception and coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Anemia (loss of red blood cells)
  • Coma
  • Blackouts (memory lapses, where the drinker cannot remember events that occurred while under the influence)

What are some of the long-term effects of alcohol?

Binge drinking and continued alcohol use in large amounts are associated with many health problems, including:

  • Unintentional injuries such as car crash, falls, burns, drowning
  • Intentional injuries such as firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence
  • Increased on-the-job injuries and loss of productivity
  • Increased family problems, broken relationships
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • High blood pressure, stroke, and other heart-related diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Sexual problems
  • Permanent damage to the brain
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency, which can lead to a disorder characterized by amnesia, apathy and disorientation
  • Ulcers
  • Gastritis (inflammation of stomach walls)
  • Malnutrition
  • Cancer of the mouth and throat



Traffic Deaths caused by alcohol.

Help services for use of alcohol.

Counselling Online
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Free alcohol and drug counselling online.

Cannabis Information and Helpline
1800 30 40 50
The helpline is available from 2pm–11pm Sunday to Friday (including public holidays).

Family Drug Help
1300 660 068
9am–9pm, Monday to Friday

Family Drug Support
1300 368 186
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Support for families faced with problematic drug use.

Kids Help Line
1800 55 1800
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Free and confidential telephone and online counselling service for young people aged between 5 and 25.

13 11 14
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Confidential telephone counselling.

13 18 48
8am–8pm Monday to Friday

SANE Australia helpline
1800 187 263
9am–5pm, Monday to Friday
Information and referral about mental health issues

Say When
Online support for monitoring alcohol intake.


1800 888 236
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Confidential alcohol and drug counselling and referral line.

Pharmacotherapy, Advocacy, Mediation & Support (PAMS)
1800 443 844
10am–6pm, Monday to Friday

1800 014 446
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Contact YSASline if you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol and or other drug use (ages 12–21 years).

New South Wales

Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)
Sydney: 02 9361 8000
Regional NSW: 1800 422 599
A 24-hour confidential information, advice and referral telephone service.

Hep C Helpline
Hepatitis C Council of New South Wales
Sydney: 02 9332 1599
Regional: 1800 803 990


Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)
1800 177 833
24-hour Alcohol and Drug Information Service.

Western Australia

Parent Drug Information Service (PDIS)
Perth: 08 9442 5050
Regional: 1800 653 203

WA Alcohol & Drug Information Service (ADIS)
Perth: 08 9442 5000
Regional WA: 1800 198 024
A 24-hour, confidential telephone service that provides information, counselling, referral and advice.

South Australia

Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)
1300 131 340
A 24-hour telephone information, counselling, and referral service.

Australian Capital Territory

ACT Health Services: Alcohol & Other Drugs
02 6207 9977
24-hour telephone service offering information, advice, referral, intake, assessment and support.


Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)
1800 811 994
A 24-hour telephone information and counselling line.

Northern Territory

Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)
1800 131 350
24-hour Alcohol and Drug Telephone Information and counselling service.

Strategies to stop alcohol.

If you want to quit drinking, the strategies below can be helpful.

If you think you may be dependent on alcohol and decide to stop drinking completely, don't go it alone. Sudden withdrawal from heavy drinking can be life threatening. Seek medical help to plan a safe recovery.

Find alternatives.

If drinking has occupied a lot of your time, then fill free time by developing new, healthy activities, hobbies, and relationships, or renewing ones you've missed. If you have counted on alcohol to be more comfortable in social situations, manage moods, or cope with problems, then seek other, healthy ways to deal with those areas of your life.

Avoid "triggers."

What triggers your urge to drink? If certain people or places make you drink even when you don't want to, try to avoid them. If certain activities, times of day, or feelings trigger the urge, plan something else to do instead of drinking. If drinking at home is a problem, keep little or no alcohol there.

Plan to handle urges.

When you cannot avoid a trigger and an urge hits, consider these options: Remind yourself of your reasons for changing (it can help to carry them in writing or store them in an electronic message you can access easily). Or talk things through with someone you trust. Or get involved with a healthy, distracting activity, such as physical exercise or a hobby that doesn't involve drinking. Or, instead of fighting the feeling, accept it and ride it out without giving in, knowing that it will soon crest like a wave and pass. Also, see the short module to help you handle urges to drink.

Know your "no."

You're likely to be offered a drink at times when you don't want one. Have a polite, convincing "no, thanks" ready. The faster you can say no to these offers, the less likely you are to give in. If you hesitate, it allows you time to think of excuses to go along. Also, see the short module to help you build drink refusal skills.