Content Map Terms
Talking openly with kids from an early age about alcohol gives them a good understanding of what it is and helps them make safe decisions later in life around alcohol. Use this guide to explain what alcohol is, how alcohol affects the body, and why people drink alcohol.
Whether you drink alcohol or not, chances are your child has seen other people drinking at restaurants, on T.V. and in movies, at friends’ houses, and at sporting, community and cultural events.
What is Alcohol?
Alcohol is a liquid that is in drinks like beer, wine and spirits. It is a drug that changes the way you feel by changing the way the brain sends and receives messages to the rest of the body. The brain controls thoughts, emotions, movements, and how you sense things. So anything that changes how your brain works, affects how your body works.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Body?
When you drink alcohol, it moves to the stomach where it is absorbed into the bloodstream. The amount of alcohol in the bloodstream is called blood alcohol content. There are laws, especially around drinking and driving, about how much blood alcohol content you should have.
The blood carries alcohol to the brain, and once it reaches the brain it starts to slow your thinking, movements and speech. The more alcohol you drink, the higher your blood alcohol content and the greater the slow-down effect on the brain and body.
The liver breaks down alcohol into carbon dioxide (which you breathe out through your lungs) and water (which leaves the body through urine and sweat) - that is how alcohol leaves your body. It takes time for the liver to break down alcohol. The only thing that will get your body back to normal after drinking too much alcohol is time.
Why Do People Drink Alcohol?
People have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years. Different families and cultures have different attitudes about alcohol. Some reasons adults drink:
- to celebrate successes (like getting a promotion at work)
- to mark rites of passage (like graduating or getting married)
- because they like the taste
- it can help them relax and have fun
In small amounts, alcohol can bring carefree, happy or energized feelings. But in large amounts, it can lead to bad choices and can be unhealthy. It is particularly harmful for young children - alcohol affects the development of young brains and the human brain is not fully formed until well into adulthood.
Alcohol is largely metabolized (broken down into carbon dioxide and water) by the liver for removal via the lungs and urine. When all the alcohol a person drinks is processed and eliminated from the body, their blood alcohol content returns to zero.