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For most people, alcohol is a part of everyday life. The majority of us enjoy having a drink now and then, but there is a darker side to alcohol for some people. Some people start drinking too young while others drink too much and too regularly. If you're thinking about drinking, you should know the facts about alcohol and be prepared to meet the hangover that generally comes with it.
What are the effects?
Alcohol makes you feel more relaxed, chatty and confident. But drinking too much can be pretty nasty. You might start to feel emotional or depressed and find it hard to control your speech and coordination. You could even be sick, lose bladder control or lose consciousness. Trying to handle room spin is a pretty unpleasant way to finish a night out.
What are the risks?
Having the occasional drink now and then won't leave you with any lasting health problems. But if you find you're drinking everyday and drinking more than the recommended daily allowance, you'll be doing lasting damage to your body. If you're drinking regularly, you could build up a tolerance which means you need to drink more to get the same effects. This can lead to alcohol addiction which can not only ruin your life but the lives of friends and family around you.
You'll also be damaging your internal organs and putting yourself at risk of skin problems, weight gain, brain damage and mood swings. It can even lead to alcohol poisoning which can kill, although it is fairly rare. Alcohol is also the most common date rape drug so be careful of drinking too much with someone that you don't know very well, or leaving your drink unattended.
The morning after a big one...
A hangover can make you feel really horrible. Your head is pounding, your mind is spinning and your body dehydrated. You cannot remember what you said or what you did. This can feel like a disaster but try not to get too worked up. For now, try to deal with the immediate damage. Everyone has a different hangover cure, be it a good fry-up, eating your body weight in chocolate or munching down on some vitamin pills. Whatever yours is, combine it with lots of water and sleep and you should be on your way to recovery. Whilst you're doing that, you're probably experiencing the classic terror of what you might have said or done last night. For this, it's worth checking your messages and social media accounts just to make sure you didn't decide to contact anyone in a drunken spur of the moment. If you did, just get in touch and apologise, it really isn't the end of the world.
If on top of all this, you've also woken up with someone next to you, this is a slightly bigger problem, but no need to panic. First of all, there's no need to leg it. If you definitely don't want anything more with this person, just try to make it clear to them gently. Don't make any promises that you know you won't keep, it's kinder to be straight with them. Second, if you think you might have had sex and you're not sure if you used a condom, get yourself down to an STI clinic to get checked out.
Need some more advice?
- Talk to Frank: 0800 77 66 00 - Advice and support about drugs and alcohol
- Alcoholics Anonymous: 0845 769 7555 - Advice and support about problems with alcohol
- Alateen: 020 7403 0888 - Support and advice for teenagers who are relatives and or friends of an alcoholic
- NHS Choices: Loads of information and advice on alcohol and details of addresses, phone numbers and websites for services near you