Compound: Ethanol
Other names: Booze, Brew, Charge, Goon, Grog, Liquid Gold, Longneck, Moonshine, Piss, Shots, Tallie
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Alcohol is the most widely used psychoactive drug in Australia. Given its legal status, it is widely accepted and readily available. The intoxicating ingredient, ethanol, is found in beer, wine and spirits and is produced by fermenting sugars, yeasts and starches. Alcohol is a depressant that acts on the central nervous system (CNS) slowing down breathing and heart rate making your body and mind more relaxed. Alcohol is quickly absorbed through the stomach and small intestine. It’s the amount of alcohol (ethanol) you drink, not the overall volume of beverage consumed, which affects you. Beer usually has 3-5% ethanol and wine can have 11-15%, whereas spirits can have up to 40-50%. Alcohol is a natural product of fermenting sugars. Beer is usually made from grains such as barley, wheat and rice; cider is made from apples, pears and other fruits; wine is made from grapes; and spirits are usually made from grains or fruits, but can also be made from plants. In Australia, the legal age for drinking and buying alcohol is 18 years old. Moonshine is the term used for home brew and bootleg liquor. Poorly fermented alcohol can have harmful contaminants.


Know Your Body & Mind — ‘Set’

Know Your Environment — ‘Setting’

Know Your Drug — Practice Harm Reduction


Commonly swallowed. But can also be consumed rectally.


Total duration: 1.5–3 hours
Onset: 15-30 minutes
Peak: 15-90 minutes
Coming down: 45-60 minutes
Hangover/after effects: 1-36 hours
Half life: Alcohol does not have a ‘half life’ like other drugs and passes rapidly through your system. Alcohol is metabolized at a constant rate, but some people may feel the effects of alcohol for longer amounts of time (In general terms, your body metabolises a standard drink in 60-90 minutes). After excessive alcohol consumption you may find that your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is still over the legal limit several hours after you have ceased drinking. 


Alcohol is detectable by roadside breath test, which measures the amount of alcohol in your breath. A breath test reading of 0.05 or higher is considered drink driving for fully licensed drivers in Australia (different limits apply for other license types e.g. probationary or heavy vehicle).

Urine: 1 hr – 3+ days after  Hair: Up to 90 days  Blood: 15min – 2 days after


Effects vary from person to person. Check out our table below that has listed the potential physical, psychological and emotional effects.


As with other drugs, tolerance can vary greatly from one person to another, based on body weight, age, recent meals, general health, how often you drink and how well your liver functions. Tolerance also plays a part in how quickly you get drunk.

  • Always pour or order your own drink so you can keep track of what you are drinking. Never leave a drink unattended. The most common substance to be spiked with is more alcohol.
  • Use a nip-pourer if drinking spirits to accurately measure out one shot
  • Excessive consumption may lead to alcohol poisoning. 
  • As a legal drug, alcohol use is normalised. People often forget that it is a drug and can impair your decision-making abilities. 
  • Remember, if mixing with other drugs, alcohol is also a drug. 
  • A tip for breastfeeding Mothers, alcohol gets into your breast milk from your blood, moving freely from the blood to the breast milk (and back out again). Alcohol will be in your breastmilk 30–60 minutes after you start drinking. It is safest to breastfeed before drinking alcohol however if you choose to drink, a general recommended dose is keeping to the same amount as you would to be able to legally drive (0.05 BAC). Be mindful it takes most women 1.5- 2hrs to process one standard drink.
  • Generally to maintain a legal BAC level for drivers is:
    Men – 2 x standard drinks in the first hour and 1x drink every 1.5 hours later
    Women – 1x standard drink in the first hour and 1x drink every 1.5 – 2 hours later

Physical effects


  • Giddiness, dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Reduced impulse control
  • Reduced ability to attain/maintain an erection 
  • Increased difficulty in reaching orgasm 
  • Frequent urination
  • Decreased coordination
  • Mild to severe hangover after heavy use
  • Foetal damage in pregnant women at high dose or frequency
  • Analgesia (pain relief) 
  • Dehydration
  • Decreased coordination
  • Drowsiness
  • Flushed skin
  • Slurred speech


Less Common

  • Brain and liver damage (hepatitis & cirrhosis) with heavy use
  • Blackouts and memory loss at high doses



  • Coma and death at extreme doses

Emotional effects


  • Elevated mood
  • Happiness
  • Relaxation
  • Emotional instability (aggression, anger, violence, sadness etc)
  • Increased confidence/ cockiness
  • Depression and despair

Psychological effects


  • Increased sociability 
  • Reduced social inhibitions
  • Changed response to sexual stimuli
  • ‘Beer Goggles’- others appear more attractive
  • Impaired ability to make adequate decisions
  • Confusion

Less Common

  • Memory loss


  • Use in a comfortable environment with people you trust
  • Alternate with water and ensure you are hydrated before drinking
  • Never leave your drink unattended
  • Make sure you have eaten well before drinking
  • Always order and pour your own drinks
  • It’s a good idea to pour your own drinks so you can keep track of how much you are consuming. If not, watch the bartender pour your drink.
  • Check the label on your drink – it may contain more than 1x standard drink
  • Be aware of factors that may affect your tolerance (eg. other drugs incl. prescription medications, menstrual cycle etc.)
  • Stress and social anxiety can make you more susceptible to alcohol
  • Be aware that alcohol can be a volatile (and risky) drug to mix with other drugs. If you are going to take drugs, avoid or moderate your alcohol intake.



  • Never decant any other drugs into an alcohol container for storage unless clearly marked. Others may mistake this and accidentally consume a drug they haven’t consented to taking.
  • Keep alcohol out of reach from children.
  • It is not recommended to use alcohol if you have or are at risk of: Pregnant or breastfeeding, Under age of 18, Heart issues, Mental health issues, Depression & Anxiety


  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Cancer (mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, stomach)
  • Heart and blood problems incl. stroke and hypertension
  • Alcohol dependence
  • Stomach problems
  • Lowered immune system
  • Nerve problems (arms and legs)
  • Alcohol related brain injury
  • Problems with family, friends, work, finances etc



  • Try not to mix different types of alcohol as this can make your hangover worse
  • It may be tempting to have a drink to ‘cure’ a hangover but the effects of that drink will soon wear off as well
  • Be aware of how alcohol affects your mood
  • It’s not normal to vomit or lose consciousness with a reasonable dose of alcohol. Although high levels of binge drinking have been normalised in Australia, it is not healthy to drink regularly and in large amounts. Check in with yourself and use water and other non alcoholic drinks to slow down a little and enjoy the process.

Drug combinations

Polydrug use has many possible outcomes. What could be fun for one person could be dangerous for another. We recommend you proceed with caution.

Unsafe combinations

  • Ketamine – nausea, vomiting, blackouts
  • GHB – Particularly risky combination. Can easily result in an overdose leading to loss of consciousness, nausea and vomiting.
  • Opioids – Both substances potentiate the ataxia & sedation caused by the other and can lead to unexpected loss of consciousness
    MXE – High risk of memory loss, vomiting, severe ataxia
  • Tramadol – Heavy CNS depressants, risk of seizures
  • Benzos – Intensifies the effects of alcohol and can lead to blackouts. Not recommended – it can be hard to gauge your limits
  • Other medications – ie.  antipsychotics, antidepressants, some antibiotics

Cautionary combinations

  • Cocaine – Forms coca-ethylene in the body which is more harmful than the individual substances & creates a higher chance of dependency. Illusion of being less intoxicated.  
  • MAOIs – Eg Tyramine (found in some drinks) can have dangerous reactions with MAOIs, causing an increase in blood pressure
  • Stimulants – may be able to drink more but can increase risk of alcohol poisoning
  • MDMA – Both MDMA and alcohol cause dehydration. Can be a fatal mix if combining in very hot climates. Take rests, cool down and drink a glass of water every hour.
  • SSRIs – Alcohol may potentiate some of the pharmacologic effects of Central Nervous System (CNS) active agents

Low risk effects

  • Cannabis – Low risk however in excess this combination can cause nausea.
  • Caffeine – Low risk

Check out the TripSit drug combinations chart here for info on other combinations. |

Call 000 if experiencing adverse effects, feel unwell or concerned in any way


This educational resource has been developed collaboratively by healthcare workers and people who use drugs for their peers and the wider community. The role of Hi-Ground is to provide practical, evidence-based, unbiased information to assist you to make educated choices and to promote harm reduction, community care, and wellbeing. In an unregulated market it’s impossible to know the purity or dose of any substance. Taking drugs from an unregulated market carries its own risk, and you can educate yourself and practice harm reduction to reduce this risk.

Knowledge is power.

This resource is produced by DanceWize & Hi-Ground