How much do you really know about alcohol? It’s likely that what you do know is based on what you’ve read, heard or experienced - but how much of that is actually fact and how much is just a myth?
· It is true that men can hold their drink better than women. That’s because men generally weigh more than women and therefore have more tissue to absorb alcohol. Men also have higher levels of alcohol dehydrogenase (AHD), the chemical that metabolises alcohol in their liver, so their body can deal with alcohol quicker.
· Around 40% of patients admitted to Accident and Emergency departments (A&E) are diagnosed with alcohol-related injuries or illnesses.
· Alcohol is the biggest single cause of accidents in the home.(9) Every year, there are around 4,000 fatal domestic accidents, 2.6 million accidents that require treatment in A&E departments and millions more minor accidents. At a conservative estimate, there are 400 deaths in alcohol-related home accidents.
· Around one in three fires are caused by people under the influence of alcohol. Of the 270 people who died in household fires in 2007/08, around a third had been drinking.
· Alcohol kills well over 50 times as many people in the UK as heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, crack and methadone put together
· More than 30,000 people die in the UK each year from alcohol-related illnesses. That's over 80 people every day. (2008 NHS figures)
· In Great Britain, two out of every five men (40%) drink more than the recommended daily limit of four units at least once a week. A quarter (23%) drink twice the recommended limit
· 50% of domestic violence can be attributed to alcohol. Worst still, 40% of child abuse is committed under the influence. (2007 Home Office figures)
· 60% of people treated in hospital A&E units are there for alcohol-related problems.
· 12 people die every week (2008 Government figures) in the UK as a result of their own or someone else's drink-driving.
· Younger people are more likely to have an alcohol related accident than older people. For example, in people younger than 65 years old, 22% of male falls and 14% of female falls were attributable to alcohol, compared to 12% and 4% of falls among male and females aged over 65 years, respectively.
· In 65% of murders, either the killer or the victim is drunk. (2007 Home Office figures)
· Up to 1,000 young people a week suffer serious facial injuries as a result of drunken assaults. Most occur on Friday and Saturday nights after 10 p.m. (2008 NHS figures)
· Acute alcohol poisoning is usually a result of binge drinking. Your body can process about one unit of alcohol an hour. If you drink a lot in a short space of time, the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream (blood alcohol concentration or BAC) may become dangerously high. Alcohol poisoning can kill you
What is alcohol?
The type of alcohol that features in the alcoholic drinks we drink is a chemical called ethanol. To make alcohol, you need to put grains, fruits or vegetables through a process called fermentation ( yeast or bacteria react with the sugars in food – the byproducts are ethanol and carbon dioxide).
Wine and cider are made by fermenting fruit, while fermented cereals such as barley and rye form the basis of beer and spirits. A drink’s alcohol content is affected by how long it’s left to ferment.
Spirits also go through as process called distillation – where a proportion of the water is removed, leaving a stronger concentration of alcohol and flavor.
Strength of alcoholic drinks
ABV or alcohol by volume refers to the strength of your drink. If you take a look at the label of a bottle of alcohol, you will see either a percentage, followed by the abbreviation “ABV” or sometimes just the word “vol”. Wine that says “13 ABV” on its label contains 13% pure alcohol.
Alcohol in units
The amount of alcohol in a drink is measured in units. One unit is 10 ml or 8g of pure alcohol. The size and strength of your drink will determine the number of units it contains. You can work out the number of units in your drink with this handy sum:
Strength (ABV) x Volume (ml) ÷ 1000 = No. of units.
For example, a strong pint of lager would be: 5.2 (ABV) x 568 (ml in a pint) ÷ 1000 = 2.95 units.
What happens when you drink alcohol?
From the second you take your first sip, alcohol starts affecting your body and mind. After one or two drinks you may start feeling more sociable, but drink too much and basic human functions, such as walking and talking, become much harder. You might also start saying things you don’t mean and behaving out of character. While some of alcohol’s effects disappear overnight – the effects of regular heavy drinking can start affecting different areas of your life, and even encourage the development of long-term health conditions, such as heart and liver disease.
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