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Facts & Statistics Binge
Drinking Alcohol's effects on the Brain &
Body Fact Sheet
Alcohol is often not thought to be a
drug – largely because its use is common for both religious & social purposes in most parts of the world. It is
a drug, however, and compulsive drinking in excess has become one of society’s most serious problems. The beverage
alcohol (scientifically known as ethyl alcohol or ethanol) is produced by fermenting or distilling various fruits,
vegetables or grains. Ethyl alcohol itself is a clear, colourless liquid. Alcoholic beverages get their distinctive
colours from the diluents, additives & by-products of fermentation.
Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the
bloodstream from the small intestine, and less rapidly from the stomach and colon (large intestine). In
proportion to its concentration in the bloodstream, alcohol decreases activity in parts of the brain and spinal
cord. The drinker’s blood alcohol concentration depends on:
The amount consumed in a given time
(eg. '10 pots in 2
hours as opposed to 10 pots in 4
The drinkers' size, gender, body build &
metabolism (eg. 'a 40 yr old 50kg female,
compared to a 22 yr old, 92kg sportsman)
The type & amount of food in the stomach
(eg. a bowl of 'rabbit food' for dinner compared to a
large 'roast beef dinner')
Once alcohol has passed into the blood, however, no food or
beverage can retard or interfere with its effects. Fruit sugar, however, in some cases, can shorten the duration of
alcohol’s effect by speeding up its elimination from the blood.
In the average adult, the rate of
metabolism is about 8.5g of alcohol per hour (ie. about 2/3 of a regular beer or about 30ml of spirits an hour).
This rate can vary dramatically among individuals depending on such diverse factors as usual amount of drinking,
physique, sex, liver size, and genetic factors.
The Effects of Alcohol
After a few
drinks: feel more relaxed, reduced
concentration & slower reflexes.
A few more
drinks: fewer inhibitions,
more confidence, reduced coordination, slurred speech, intense
drinks: Confusion, blurred
vision, poor muscle control.
still: Nausea, vomiting,
possible incontinence, poor respiration, a fall in blood pressure,
More: Possibly coma or
(This video is quite
'heart-wrenching' & very graphic)
attempting to be excessively 'graphic' to 'get a point
across', as many advertising campaigns tend to be, this is one of
the unfortunate realities of the effects of alcohol - be it excessively high levels or merely the
distraction, poor concentration & disinhibition, coordination and sensory disturbance that
impact on sound cognitive judgement, reflexes and alertness; this may occur with fewer
'drinks' than you might realize;
particularly if your frame of mind is already 'casual', 'carefree',
'relaxed' and so on. You may drive for 10 years like this and never have one incident. That doesn't mean
that tragedy is not 'around the
corner'. Keep doing it and the 'odds of eventually losing' increase. Just
like football; the longer or more consecutive your winning streak is, the closer you are to
When does alcohol consumption of
alcohol turn to dependency drinking and finally to ‘biochemically-controlled’ drinking? The answer is:
even most alcohol addicts themselves don’t know when they became addicted to alcohol. Alcohol is the most
sinister of drugs, one that draws a thin line between social use and addictive use. Alcohol addicts rely on
alcohol as a key component of their personality – without a drink, they simply cannot “be
Drinking heavily over a short period
of time usually results in a “hangover” – headache, nausea, shakiness and sometimes vomiting, beginning
from 8 to 12 hours later. A hangover is due partly to poisoning by alcohol and other components of the drink,
and partly due to the body’s reaction to withdrawal from alcohol.
Combining alcohol with other drugs can
make the effects of these other drugs much stronger and more dangerous. Many accidental deaths have occurred
after people have used alcohol combined with other drugs. Cannabis, tranquilisers, barbiturates and other sleeping pills or antihistamines (in cold, cough and allergy remedies) should not be taken with alcohol.
Even a small amount of alcohol with any of these drugs can seriously impair a person’s ability to drive a
People who drink on a regular basis
become tolerant to many of the unpleasant effects of alcohol and thus are able to drink more before suffering
these effects. Yet even with increased consumption, many such drinkers don’t appear intoxicated. Because they
continue to work & socialize reasonably well, their deteriorating physical condition may go unrecognized by
others until severe damage develops – or until they are hospitalized for other reasons and suddenly experience
alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Psychological dependence on alcohol
may occur with regular use of even moderate daily amounts. It may occur in people who consume alcohol only under
certain conditions, such as before & during social occasions, post football games etc. This form of
dependence refers to a craving for alcohol’s psychological effects, although not necessarily in amounts that
produce serious intoxication. For psychologically dependant drinkers, the lack of alcohol tends to make them
anxious and, in some cases, ‘panicky’.
Physical dependence occurs in
consistently heavy drinkers. Since their bodies have adapted to the presence of alcohol, they suffer withdrawal
symptoms if they suddenly stop drinking. Withdrawal symptoms range from jumpiness, sleeplessness, sweating and
poor appetite, to tremors (the ‘shakes’), convulsions, hallucinations and
sometimes death. Alcohol abuse can take a negative toll on people’s lives, fostering violence or a deterioration
of personal relationships. Alcoholic behaviour can interfere with school,
football or career goals and lead to unemployment. Long term abuse poses a variety of health risks, such as
liver damage, brain damage and increased risk for
The reason for outlining the details
of alcohol use & abuse is to provide you with the necessary information to enable you to be aware of
alcohol’s effects and possible consequences. No one is suggesting that abstinence is ‘the way to go’
nor are we promoting or advocating this. You do, however, need to know the negative effects & consequences
of inappropriate use & dependence.
This is particularly relevant to
the Rugby League arena, whether for your own sake, or for that of your mates & teammates, or even your family. As alcohol is such a significant part of
the social activities & ‘get togethers’ of clubs, always be mindful that your confidence and
ability to mix and converse with others is not only possible by drinking alcohol.
Everyone loves a drink occasionally
and in the right setting, but, as stated before, there are serious consequences when this gets ‘out of
control’. How many media reports have there been regarding the behaviours of footballers and other sporting
identities under the influence of alcohol. How many of these have been fined, suspended, had their reputations
tarnished and, in some cases, their careers ended?
Socialize, have a drink, enjoy
yourself. The aim of this section on ‘alcohol’ is not intended to demonize or force total abstinence;
it regards the concern for the welfare of players who potentially risk their futures, and their lives, by
carrying the consumption of alcohol a little too far.
Alcohol 'Self Assessment'
Should you have concerns regarding any issue
relating to your 'mental or physical
off' strongly recommend you seek professional assistance. This
may entail contacting your GP or similar clinician (Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Counsellor etc.). You may
also contact the appropriate agency or service that might assist you. Irrespective of your choice, ensure you
see someone who might help.