Short-term harm

When you drink alcohol, it reaches your brain within five minutes, affecting the way you think, feel and behave. With every drink, the risk of accident and injury increases, both for the person drinking and others around them.

The short-term effects 

The most immediate effects of alcohol are on the brain. This can include feelings of relaxation and confidence, because alcohol slows the part of the brain that controls inhibition. The more you drink, the more you feelings and behaviour change. This is because the level of alcohol in your blood increases, also know as blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

When BAC increases, the effects of alcohol in slowing down the brain become more obvious. This is what causes slurred speech, slower reaction times, impaired judgement, and difficulty walking. While it varies from person to person, a healthy adult can expect the following short-term effects as their BAC increases.

Blood alcohol Concentration (BAC)Effects
0.05% - 0.08 g%
  • Impaired thinking and judgment
  • Talkative
  • Relaxed
  • Increased confidence
0.08% - 0.15 g%
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired balance and coordination 
  • Reflexes slowed
  • Impaired visual attention 
  • Unstable emotions
  • Nausea, vomiting
0.15% - 0.30 g%
  • Unable to walk without help
  • Apathetic, sleepy
  • Laboured breathing
  • Unable to remember events
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Possible loss of consciousness
Over 0.30 g%
  • Coma
  • Death

Find out more about factors that can impact BAC

Reduce drinking

Short term risks of alcohol use

  • Increased risk of injury (falls, assault, road crashes, drowning)
  • Unwanted or unsafe sex
  • Treating others in a way they normally wouldn’t, like arguing or having a fight
  • Family, domestic and sexual violence
  • Poor mental health, self-harm and suicide
  • Sleeping problems
  • Vomiting, alcohol poisoning and blackouts
  • Hangovers

Binge drinking (drinking more than 4 standard drinks in one occasion or over a short period) significantly increases your risk of experiencing harm. The health risks are even more serious if you’re under 18

Short-term harms of alcohol can not only impact the individual, but also family, friends and the wider community.

Alcohol poisoning

Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person’s BAC is so high it reaches a toxic level. It is serious and can be fatal. 

Symptoms include:

  • vomiting
  • pale skin
  • decrease in body temperature
  • unconsciousness (passing out)
  • confusion
  • slow or irregular breathing
  • loss of co-ordination
  • seizures

If you think someone has alcohol poisoning, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance immediately.

Reduce your risk of harm

To reduce your risk of harm, including injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day. 

When people use alcohol, they are more likely to get hurt and hurt other people. This includes car crashes, falls or getting into arguments. 

Did you know? 284 West Australians lost their lives due to alcohol-caused injuries in 2017.

Check out the Interactive body tool

Use the Interactive body tool to explore more short- and long-term effects of alcohol on the body.

Learn more

Page last updated7 August 2023