Alcohol & Drugs
A picture of Alcohol

What’s the deal with alcohol?

Booze is a depressant and I'm pretty sure that's where the saying Gin and Tears comes from.

The active ingredient in alcohol is ethanol. It'll do the same job of getting someone drunk no matter what their choice of drink. The concentration of alcohol varies between beer, wine and spirits. As the concentration of alcohol varies so to does the body's rate of absorbtion. 

How does it work?

Figuratively speaking alcohol is drunk. 

Drink, drank, drunk. 

To drink is to swallow some kind of liquid. To be drunk means you've consumed enough alcohol over a short period that you've lost your ability to make rational decisions. 

Effects

There is no such thing as a safe level of drug use. Substance use carries risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any form of drug. The effects of alcohol may affect people differently based on:

  • A person’s body weight
  • General state of health
  • Regular use of substance
  • If taken in combination with other drugs including prescription medication
  • The amount that is consumed
  • The type of alcohol consumed: spirits are generally stronger

Short Term Effects

The short term effects of alcohol are likely to result in:

  • A feeling of relaxation
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Reduced reflexes
  • Increased confidence
  • Heightened mood: feeling happier or more depressed than usual

Long Term Effects

Chronic abuse of alcohol may result in long-term, detrimental health problems. Some of these include:

  • Erectile dysfunction and infertility
  • Memory loss and/or brain damage
  • Difficulties with pregnancy and becoming pregnant
  • Depression
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Drug Dependency
  • Reduced kidney and liver function
  • An increased risk of heart disease

Coming Down

Depending on the quantity of alcohol you've consumed the 'day-after-the-night-before' may leave you feeling pretty unwell. This my friend is referred to as the hangover. Apart from their generally unpleasantness, a hangover may see you dealing with: 

  • Headaches
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Restless sleep and overall tiredness
  • An increased heart rate and/or blood pressure
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Dehydration

Sobering up takes time. Rehydrating the body is important. Your liver can only work so fast and breaking down alcohol is achieved at a rate of approximately one standard drink per hour. Sweating it out in a sauna, having a cold shower or drinking excessive amounts of caffeine is simply not going to cut it. You may feel better in the interim but your blood alcohol content will not reduce any faster than your liver will allow. You’d probably have more luck crawling back under the doona and attempting to hack into your housemate’s Netflix account. By the way, if you’re feeling that wretched it's likely that you won't be sober enough to drive a motor vehicle or operate heavy machinery.

Sometimes a hangover will bring with it strong feelings of remorse and or regret. Maybe you went and got yourself horribly wasted, behaved in ways you wouldn't have if you were sober or maybe you don't remember much from the night at all. Which one's which? Not sure. In all of those big feels, one thing is for certain - Cher's been there babe. 

Safety

Determining your own choices is one of the greatest things that life has to offer. Your life, your choice in how you're living it. Maybe you partake in an expensive glass of single malt whiskey every now and then? Imbibe. Treat yo' self. Just remember to play it safe - both with yourself and with others.

We've got some helpful tips to consider:

  • Set limits for yourself, and stick to them
  • Don’t let other people pressure you into drinking more than you want

Overdose

If you consume large quantities of alcohol over short periods of time, you're going to increase your chances of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is serious business and may result in death, so check out our safety tips and avoid turning a fun night out into several hours splayed on your bathroom floor, hugging it out with the toilet bowl. 

There's a fine line between stupidly drunk and dangerously intoxicated. If you've been all pour up (drank), head shot (drank), sit down (drank), stand up (drank), pass out (drank), wake up (drank) - you're entering dangerous territory. Drink a glass of water and seek medical advice.

Mixing with Other Drugs

The effect of alcohol in combination with other drugs including over-the-counter or prescribed medication is unpredictable and dangerous. Here are some of the known interactions between alcohol and other drugs including prescription medications:

Alcohol + other drugs classified as depressants (GHB, Ketamine and certain prescription medications) are a dangerous combination. Together, they may increase the risk of overdose by reducing heart rate and breathing to dangerously low levels.

Alcohol + Cannabis may cause nausea and vomiting. Feelings of anxiety and paranoia may also occur when the drugs are taken in combination.

Alcohol + Cocaine will strengthen the stimulant effect of cocaine and places the heart under extreme stress. This condition has been linked to sudden death.

Alcohol + Ecstasy generally lessens the overall effect of ecstasy. It can however dangerously increase these effects, speeding up the process of dehydration.

Living with HIV

Let's be frank, recreational drug use (whether it's legal or not) is likely to interact or even interfere with the treatment regime of a person living with HIV. Changes in the concentration of ARV's is a result of two or more drugs interacting. These changes in concentration are known to be the very thing which ultimatley leads to treatment failure and toxicity.  

If you're HIV+ and a recreational user, check in regularly with your GP or an experienced HIV medical practitioner. Know your limits, know your body and be aware of the impact that other substances may have on your treatment.

Interactions with HIV Medications

Excessive alcohol use may weaken immune function and poses a potential threat to the long-term benefit of ARV therapy. Alcohol combined with the antivirals Abacavir, Kivexa and Trizivir can lead to higher levels of medication in the body due to decreased metabolism of the drug.

Alcohol use may increase the risk of pancreatitis when used in combination with Didanosine/Videx. Caution is necessary when mixing alcohol with Amprenavir and Fosamprenavir as an oral solution, as it increases the risk of toxic side effects associated with both of these drugs.

Taking Hormones

For trans, gender diverse or intersex people who are taking some form of hormone therapy, it's important to be aware and informed of how your body processes these treatments.

Currently, there is limited information into the interactions and cross interactions of hormone therapy and recreational drug use but that doesn't mean we'll stop asking for it. Whether your hormones are prescribed by a doctor or you've sourced them yourself from the internet, make it a priority to get regular health checks. Sometimes, a change in dosage or preparation of hormones is needed and a qualified medical practitioner is the person best placed to advise you of this.

If you're not comfortable talking about your gender, gender identity or bodily difference with your doctor, get in touch and we can make recommendations for a service that is best placed to support your needs.

Interactions with Hormones

Cyproterone Acetate is a powerful anti-androgen used primarily in the treatment of prostate cancer.  It can also be prescribed to intersex people and trans women.

After a big night on the turps, Cyproterone acetate may leave you feeling lethargic, tired or with limited ability to concentrate. Used long-term in dosages of 150 mg or higher it may lead to liver damage or failure, so it's a safe bet to assume that a combination of heavy drinking and cyproterone acetate is going to exacerbate this.

Treatment

Have you found yourself going a little too hard at it lately? If alcohol has begun to have a negative impact on your health, your relationships with family and friends, your ability to focus on work or study or perhaps even the bottom line on your bank account - it's time to TouchBase with somebody who can help.

There are a number of treatment options and support services available for you or your family and friends if they need it. Whatever your recovery goals are, if it is to control, reduce or stop alcohol use, reach out for some support.

Counselling & Support

Counselling can be provided individually or in a group situation, and is available to people who use alcohol or other drugs, and to their family members or support people. A support service can offer counselling or direct you to a service appropriate for you. Speak to your doctor, alcohol and other drugs treatment service or local community health service.

Find help and support services.

Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation programs take a long term approach to treatment to help you achieve your goals with your alcohol or other drug use. Residential withdrawal is also available from some treatment services.

Find out more about withdrawal.

Complementary therapies

These include treatments such as massage and relaxation therapies, which can be useful to help you manage withdrawal symptoms. 

Peer support 

These programs are provided for people who use alcohol and other drugs, and their family members or support person/s. 

Pharmacotherapy

Substitution pharmacotherapy is the use of medication to replace a harmful drug. This is given as a legal, measured, prescribed dose of a drug and helps take away cravings. So you can work on the other issues that will help you to control, reduce or stop your alcohol or other drug use.

Pharmacotherapy is available for withdrawal from alcohol. Your doctor or treatment service can give you more information about what is available to help you.

Withdrawal & Rehab

Givin' up the booze can be challenging so it's important to seek advice from a health professional if this is something you've considered.

If you're a long-term, heavy booze hound then stopping cold turkey may trigger alcohol withdrawal seizures. Symptoms of withdrawal usually start 4 to 12 hours after your last drink and stick around for 4 or 5 days. These can include:

  • Body tremors and sweating
  • Anxiety, irritability and difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Seizure
  • Coma and possibly even death
Important notice

Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied upon in that way. Individuals wanting medical advice about Alcohol should consult a health professional.