The effect alcohol has on you depends on:

  • how much you drink
  • how quickly you drink it
  • your size and weight
  • how good your general health is
  • how healthy your liver is
  • where you drink
  • whether you drink alone
  • whether you use alcohol with other drugs.

Your response to alcohol consumption may also vary due to:

  • Sex – The same amount of alcohol leads to a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in women than in men, as women tend to have a smaller body size, a lower proportion of lean tissue and smaller livers than men. On the other hand, the higher level of risk-taking behaviour among men means that, over a lifetime, the risks to males exceed the risks to females.

  • Age – In general, younger people are less tolerant to alcohol and have less experience of drinking and its effects. In addition, puberty is often accompanied by risk-taking behaviours. Later in life, as people age, their tolerance for alcohol decreases and the risk of falling, driving accidents and adverse interactions with medications increases.

  • Mental health – people who have, or are prone to, mental health conditions (eg: anxiety and depression, schizophrenia) may have worse symptoms after drinking. Alcohol can also trigger a variety of mental health conditions in people who are already prone to these conditions.

  • Other health conditions that are made worse by alcohol – people who already have health conditions caused or exacerbated by alcohol, such as epilepsy, alcohol dependence, cirrhosis of the liver, alcoholic hepatitis or pancreatitis, are at risk of the condition becoming worse if they drink alcohol.

  • Medication and drug use – alcohol can interact with a wide range of prescribed and over-the-counter medications, herbal preparations and illicit drugs. This can alter the effect of either the alcohol or the medication and has the potential to cause serious harm to both the drinker and others.

  • Family history of alcohol dependence – people who have a family history of alcohol dependence (particularly among first-degree relatives) have an increased risk of developing a dependence.

You can develop a tolerance for Alcohol if you regularly consume it.

Anyone can develop a tolerance to alcohol. Tolerance means that you must drink more to feel the same effects you used to have with lower amounts. If this continues, you can develop a dependence on alcohol, which means that it takes up much of your thoughts, emotions and activities. Not all people who drink are dependent.

Dependent people find it very difficult to stop or reduce drinking. This is because of withdrawal symptoms, which can include:

  • anxiety
  • sweating
  • shaking
  • vomiting
  • fits
  • hallucinations (seeing or hearing things).