Alcohol is a clear beverage that is made from corn, barley, grain, rye or fruit. It is produced by fermentation. Yeast is added to a substance that contains sugar. It acts on the sugars and starches contained in the liquid. The concentration of alcohol varies. For example, beer and wine usually have an alcoholic content of 5 to 15 % while whiskey and vodka might have an alcoholic content of 40%.
Why people drink
People drink for various reasons. Some are social drinkers. Some drink because the alcohol relaxes them, helps them lose their inhibitions and makes them more social. Alcohol produces a feeling of well being if drunk in moderate amounts. Others drink because it helps them temporarily forget their problems.
What is a standard dose
A moderate amount of alcohol would be two standard drinks a day for men and one for women. The definition of a standard drink:
- 12 oz. (341 ml) of beer
- 5 oz (142 ml) of wine
- 1.5 oz (85 ml) of liquor
Did You Know?
- Alcohol (wine, beer, or liquor) is the leading known preventable cause of mental and physical birth defects in the United States.
- Women get affected by alcohol quicker than men do -- they also tend to get report feelings of drunkenness after having consumed fewer units of alcohol than men.
- Mixing drinks will not make you more intoxicated but will upset the stomach.
- Cold showers and hot coffee will wake you up but not get rid of the alcohol in the system
- Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not a stimulant but a depressant.
- Eating before drinking does not help you to stay sober. It merely slows down the absorption of the alcohol in the body.
- Approximately half the deaths that take place due to drowning, fires, homicides etc. are alcohol related.
- People who start using alcohol at an early age are more likely to ave problems with alcohol later on in life.
- The countries leading in total alcohol consumption are Luxembourg followed by Hungary, the Czech Republic, Ireland, and Germany.
Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol affects different people differently. Some people get more affected than others. Sometimes the same person may get more affected at one time and not so affected at another time. Factors such as body size, how much there is in the stomach, metabolism and body fat determine how the alcohol affects a person.
It is the amount of alcohol a person drinks that has an effect and not the kind of alcohol. Alcohol also affects women differently from the way it affects men. This is because women have more fatty tissue and less water in their bodies. As a result alcohol is more concentrated in their bodies and breaks down more slowly.
To reduce the effects of alcohol on the body, eat something before drinking. Drink slowly and do not allow anyone to top up your drink for you. Drinking an excess of alcohol leads to lowered reflexes, slurred speech, dizziness and nausea, poor judgment and dehydration. It also results in a hangover the next day.
While alcohol affects every part of the body in some way or the other, the part that it affects the most is the liver. The liver can process small amounts of alcohol but large amounts can overtax it. As a result, the liver's ability to metabolise fat can become seriously impaired. In the long term this leads to a fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis.
The other serious consequences of consuming too much alcohol are an increased risk of arthiritis, cancer and kidney failure, hyperglycermia, hypoglycemia, nervous disorders, heart disease, malnutrition, psychological disturbances and obesity.
People who should not drink
- Pregnant women
- Women trying to conceive
- People under certain medications
- People who plan to drive
- People who intend to use some kind of machinery that requires them to be alert
- Recovering alcoholics
- Those on medication
- People with a family history of alcoholism.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
According to estimates, each year in the United States, 1 in every 750 infants is born with a pattern of physical, developmental, and functional problems referred to as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), while another 40,000 are born with fetal alcohol effects (FAE). It is characterised by some or all of these symptoms --
- low birth weight
- small head circumference
- failure to thrive
- developmental delay
- organ dysfunction
- facial abnormalities, including smaller eye openings, flattened cheekbones, and indistinct philtrum (an underdeveloped groove between the nose and the upper lip)
- poor coordination/fine motor skills
- poor socialization skills, such as difficulty building and maintaining friendships and relating to groups
- lack of imagination or curiosity
- learning difficulties, including poor memory, inability to understand concepts such as time and money, poor language comprehension, poor problem-solving skills
- behavioral problems, including hyperactivity, inability to concentrate, social withdrawal, stubbornness, impulsiveness, and anxiety
Children with FAE display the same symptoms, but to a lesser degree.
Health benefits of alcohol
Research has shown that the death rate of people who die from coronary disease is lower amongst people who drink moderately than those who do not drink at all. Drinking moderately may also reduce the chances of developing certain kinds of cardiovascular disease. Moderate quantities of wine are actually good for health.
Alcoholic Content of Different Beverages
Beer has a fixed alcohol content. A bottle of beer states how much alcohol it contains. Hard liquor is concentrated alcohol and the alcohol content of a drink can vary depending on what it is mixed with (as in cocktails) and on the generosity of the person pouring the alcohol.
A standard scotch has the alcoholic content of two beers. A cocktail may contain as much alcohol as two beers.
A survey found that binge drinkers and people who suffer from behaviour related problems after drinking alcohol preferred to drink beer over any other form of alcohol, the reason being that with beer you know how much alcohol you are consuming.
Facts About Alcohol Absorption in the Body
Despite the tireless efforts of thousands of advocates, impaired drivers continue to kill someone every 30 minutes, nearly 50 people a day, and almost 18,000 citizens a year.
The alcohol is rapidly absorbed directly into the bloodstream from the stomach and the small intestine. If there is some food in the stomach, absorption is slower but the alcohol will eventually reach the bloodstream. It is absorbed by the water in the body.
The liver breaks down the alcohol. Some of the alcohol is eliminated from the body through sweat and urine. The liver gets rid of the rest, working at the speed of approximately one standard drink an hour. If a large amount of alcohol has been consumed it will still be in the bloodstream the next day. It is a myth that drinking black coffee or having a cold shower or vomiting helps to rid the body of the alcohol faster.
Binge Drinking means drinking a large amount of alcohol over a short period of time. It can also mean drinking heavily and continuously over a period of days. Binge Drinking leads to quick and severe intoxication. It eventually leads to nausea, vomiting, shakiness and dizziness. It is also likely to cause a hangover.
Long-term effects of alcohol
- Heavy consumption of alcohol causes a person to develop tolerance to the alcohol. This means that in order to achieve the same feeling of intoxication, he has to drink more.
- Too much alcohol causes permanent impairment of the liver and the brain.
- Heavy dependence on alcohol can affect relationships
- This can eventually lead to depression
- Drinking regularly and heavily leads to dependence on alcohol.
- A person dependent on alcohol may experience withdrawal symptoms after he gives up drinking because the body becomes used to functioning with alcohol. These symptoms could include loss of appetite, stomach cramps, anxiety, insomnia, trembling and sweating. In severe cases there may even be convulsions, cramps, vomiting and hallucinations.
What is Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse should not be confused with alcoholism. It is not a craving or a dependence on alcohol. It is a pattern of drinking which leads to failure to fulfill responsibilities, getting into trouble with the law, drinking and driving or hurting someone while intoxicated. It is usually but not necessarily associated with teenagers and youngsters.
Drugs and Alcohol
Recreational drugs and alcohol do not mix. Alcohol is deadly when mixed with barbiturates, tranquilizers (such as Valium), and heroin. It is especially damaging to the liver.
Who is an alcoholic
A social drinker is someone who drinks moderately and slowly, does not get drunk or misbehave and knows how much liquor he can hold. An alcoholic usually denies that he has a drinking problem, is not aware of how much he is drinking, often drinks alone, needs to drink before facing any situation and may keep bottles hidden in convenient places. An alcoholic often does not remember what he was doing when he was drinking- a sort of blackout. He may also show a dramatic behavioral change after drinking, such as becoming angry or violent.
What is alcohol poisoning
Alcohol poisoning takes various forms. Very high levels of alcohol can lead to unconsciousness and eventually death. This happens because the amount of alcohol is so high that it slows down those parts of the nervous system and brain that control the heart and respiration. Combining alcohol with drugs can also lead to death.
Alcohol and Medication
It is dangerous to take medication along with alcohol. Some of the ingredients contained in the drug can have certain, unexpected side effects. Even if the alcohol and the medication are taken at separate times they can interact and have serious consequences.
Drugs taken for allergies and colds along with alcohol can cause dizziness and drowsiness. The medication in the syrup form already has a hig concentration of alcohol and talking it along with alcohol can cause an alcohol overdose.
Medication taken for diabetes along with alcohol can cause nausea, vomiting, rapid increase in the heartbeat, changes in blood pressure and abnormally low blood sugar levels.
Drugs taken for an enlarged prostate along with alcohol can cause dizziness and fainting.
The seemingly harmless medication taken for indigestion and heartburn can lead to rapid heartbeat and sudden changes in blood pressure when taken along with alcohol.
Medication for high blood pressure, when combined with alcohol, can cause dizziness, drowsiness, fainting and an erratic heartbeat (a condition known as arrhythmia).
Taking alcohol along with medication meant for high cholesterol can lead to problems such as liver damage, increased flushing and stomach bleeding.
Medication taken with alcohol for infection, especially stomach infections, can cause problems such as stomach pain, vomiting, nausea, headache and liver damage.
Painkillers taken for fever, inflammation, headache, muscle ache etc, can cause stomach ulcers, liver damage, rapid heartbeat and an upset stomach.
- Facts ABout Alcohol
- Alcohol Statistics
- Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
- Myths and Realities of Alcoholism
- About Alcoholism