About nine out of 10 New Zealanders admit that they "like a drink". According to the Mental Health Foundation, alcohol is by far the most commonly used mind-altering drug in New Zealand at home, after work, at events and in bars and restaurants. Mostly, it is socially acceptable and legal to purchase for those above 18 years of age although there's now a discussion the law may be changed and this age might be raised again.
But if you ask what alcohol actually does, you're likely to get some uncertain and confusing answers (even from sober people). That's not surprising because alcohol, unlike many other drugs, actually does a whole range of things to the brain and the nervous system.
Alcohol can be a stimulant and a depressant. It can alter your mood, impair your judgement and remove inhibitions. And in greater amounts it is an anaesthetic. Quite how it affects you depends on how much you drink and how quickly, how well you cope with drinking alcohol, what sort of mood you are in to begin with and what your "relationship with alcohol" is like is there a problem?
Initially, a small amount of alcohol can have pleasant or euphoric effects for some people the aperitif or quick beer after work.
A larger amount of alcohol just a couple or more drinks tends to have depressant effects that reduce tension and worries but also slow your thought processes and response times, which is why drinking and driving is out.
Alcohol has effects on all parts of the nervous system and can alter your mood, or exaggerate it, especially if you are already feeling angry or depressed.
For many people, alcohol progressively removes the barriers to uncharacteristic behaviour it removes inhibitions. For some people, this can occasionally be a good thing, but very bad for others. You might never know which unless someone has the courage or need to tell you, or you find the evidence on Facebook!
A few drinks, and people tend to become more impulsive and less aware of risk. Overestimating your ability, or underestimating the risk, is a reason you might find you have taken a risk you normally would not.
The overall amount or simply the rate at which alcohol is drunk can raise blood alcohol to dangerous levels, where alcohol becomes an anaesthetic. Like any anaesthetic, it can cause you to lose consciousness, stop your breathing and kill you.
It is not necessary to be totally hooked on alcohol or need a drink every day to have a problem with the effects of alcohol. Getting help for the way you drink alcohol comes in many forms and it can be shaped to suit your own situation.
Article provided by UBM Medica (NZ) Ltd. For more health information and advice visit everybody.co.nz and liveto100.co.nz.