Alcohol is natural substance formed by the fermentation that occurs when sugar reacts with yeast and is the major active ingredient in wine, beer, and distilled spirits. Although there are many kinds of alcohol, the kind found in alcoholic beverages is ethyl alcohol. Alcohol is a ”psychoactive” or mind-altering drug, as are heroin and tranquilizers. It can alter moods, cause changes in the body, and become habit forming. Alcohol, which is legally available in beverages except to those under legal drinking age, is a drug. Alcohol is the most used drug in our country today. It’s the number one drug problem of teenagers and children, and alcoholism is the 3rd leading cause of death in this country after heart disease and cancer.
What exactly is alcohol?
Alcohol is a depressant that acts as a sedative when ingested. In medical terms, it is C2H5OH (Ethyl Alcohol or Ethanol). It slows down the activity of the brain and spinal cord. Whether one drinks a 12-ounce can of beer, a shot of distilled spirits, or a 5-ounce glass of wine, the amount of pure alcohol per drink is about the same – ˝ ounce. Drinks with more than one liquor such as a Black Russian is counted as two drinks because each contains two (vodka and Kailua) servings of alcohol. Each ˝ ounce carries a level of .02% BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration). Alcohol is also found in other products used by the consumer. Some nighttime cold relief medicines and cough syrups contain up to 25% alcohol. It is the ethanol (alcohol) that sedates your brain and allows you to fall asleep. To a recovering alcoholic, an alcoholic in need, or a child, using one of these nighttime cold relief medicines or cough syrups can have a devastating effect.
Why drink alcohol?
Many people think of drinking as a way to cope, and to relax. But in truth, alcohol dulls the brain and keeps you from sleeping properly. After drinking, the normal sleep patterns are impaired and you awake un-rested and feeling tired. It hasn’t helped your coping ability; instead it has probably made it worse. Ethyl Alcohol can produce feelings of well-being, sedation, intoxication, or unconsciousness, depending on the amount and way in which it is consumed.
How does alcohol affect the body?
· When alcohol is consumed, 20% of the alcohol in it is absorbed immediately into the bloodstream through the stomach walls.
· The other 80% of the alcohol enters the bloodstream almost as fast after being quickly processed through the gastrointestinal tract.
· Alcohol immediately acts on the brain’s central control areas to slow down or depress brain activity.
· The higher blood alcohol levels depress brain activity to the point that memory, as well as muscle coordination and balance, may be temporarily impaired.
· It takes 1˝ hour for the liver to burn off each drink.
· Once the alcohol has entered the system, nothing can be done about the effects until the liver has processed it.
· If a person over-indulges in alcohol they experience a common occurrence referred to as a hangover. Symptoms of hangovers may include, headache, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, unclear thinking, aching muscles, and dehydration. A person, who becomes nauseated when inebriated and passes out, can die of asphyxiation.
· Taking larger amounts of alcohol within a relatively short period of time such as “chug-a-lug” contests and “marathon” drinking can depress deeper parts of the brain which severely affect judgment and dulls the senses which can lead to blackouts (loss of consciousness) or alcohol poisoning.
· Alcohol poisoning can lead to brain damage, respiratory arrest, and possibly death.
What are the dangers associated with using alcohol with cocaine?
Researchers in Florida are studying a rash of deaths involving the simultaneous use of alcohol and cocaine. The use of these two chemicals is producing a compound in the liver called coca ethylene, which travels to the brain through the bloodstream. In the brain coca ethylene causes the release of dopamine that scrambles regulating signals to the heart.
Are today’s views on drinking changing?
Yes. People are much more concerned about their health, driving record, and keeping their job. Its socially acceptable, even trendy, to drink non-alcoholic drinks. People are more accepting of those who do not drink because of less peer pressure, especially for adults. The realities of the consequences of drinking and driving and the increased public awareness of the damage you can inflict on yourself and others make some people quit drinking.
Do only alcoholics have problems with alcohol?
No. Alcohol affects more than just the user. Many social problems stem from the use of alcohol. Every year, for example, many young people lose their lives in alcohol-related automobile accidents, drownings, and suicides. Serious health problems occur before drinkers reach the stage of addiction or chronic use, such as birth defects, memory loss, shakiness, etc. Some studies have shown more that 25% of hospital admissions were alcohol-related.
Serious diseases associated with chronic alcohol use include alcoholism and cancers of the liver, stomach, colon, larynx, esophagus, and breast.
Alcohol use can lead to serious physical problems: damage to the brain, pancreas, and kidneys, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, stomach and duodenal ulcers, colitis, irritable colon, impotence, infertility, premature aging, and other disorders such as diminished immunity to disease, sleep disturbances, muscle cramps, and edema. Other problems include birth defects and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which causes retardation, low birth weight, small head size, and limb abnormalities.
· National Drug & Safety League (A non-profit charitable organization).