Alcohol is a drink that causes intoxication after a chemical reaction in the body. Harmful use of alcohol is responsible for more than 3 million deaths a year worldwide. It is also a cause of “more than 200 diseases and injury conditions” according to the World Health Organization. Understanding alcohol and what causes alcoholism are imperative to truly understanding the struggles many people face.
While not all alcohol use is harmful, alcohol has a high risk for abuse and potential to lead to alcoholism and other conditions. This article will discuss what alcohol is, how it affects the body, and the dangers of excessive use.
Understanding Alcohol: Alcohol Explained
Alcohol is made by fermenting grains with sugar, and can be made in a number of different ways and flavors. Alcohol contains ethyl alcohol, also referred to as ethanol, which is responsible for the sedative and intoxicating effects of alcohol. If you see alcohol referred to as ethanol in some medical functions, this is why.
Ethanol is a sedative that depresses body functions, causing intoxication. When ethanol is consumed, it enters the bloodstream, it causes a chemical reaction in the brain. This reaction is what causes the euphoric buzz or intoxication. Blood alcohol content is the best measure of intoxication and why it is used by law enforcement.
Alcohol is a drug. Though it is not illegal or on the DEA scheduled drugs list like some other drugs, it causes impairment and limits the ability to function properly. Since alcohol causes impairment, it reduces reaction time and makes it difficult for people to think clearly. This is why it is never advised to drunk drive or operate machinery while under the influence of alcohol.
Since alcohol has such strong sedative effects, it should be treated as a drug. It is responsible for countless car accidents and work related injuries each year. It increases risks of most activities due to intoxication.
Common Types of Alcohol
Alcohol comes in a variety of different types. The type is dependent on the alcohol content in the specific drink, and it is usually referred to as proof. The proof of an alcohol is a percentage used to measure alcohol content and is double the alcohol content. For example an 80 proof beverage is 40% alcohol by volume.
Wine and beer are some of the most common types of alcohol and usually considered to be less intoxicating. Beer usually has between 2 and 7 percent alcohol, while wine has slightly more with 8-20 percent alcohol.
Hard liquor is as its name suggests, more powerful. Some hard liquors contain as much as 60 percent alcohol. Examples of hard alcohol include scotch, whiskey, rum, vodka, and tequila.
The alcohol percentage in each drink dictates how much can be consumed before intoxication. For example, 1 shot of hard liquor is usually only 1 oz yet it contains the same amount of alcohol as 12 ounces of beer.
Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol causes impairment. It also causes a number of other changes in behavior and mood. It can cause inability to concentrate, confusion, slurred speech, and irritability. Binge drinking frequently causes effects such as these.
Binge drinking is when someone consumes multiple drinks in rapid succession. This causes impairment and many of the effects listed above. Binge drinking frequently leads to long term alcoholism and addiction to alcohol.
Understanding Alcohol: Signs of Excessive Alcohol Use or Abuse
Many people are able to drink socially and responsibly, however alcohol poses a high propensity for addiction and abuse. As people begin to drink regularly, they build a tolerance to alcohol, which causes them to need more of it to achieve the same effects.
It can sometimes be difficult to identify an alcohol problem, as some people who are alcoholics are able to function normally. That is so long as they are able to continue drinking alcohol. Signs of excessive use of alcohol are constantly being drunk, incoherent, or tired.
However, when people who are addicted to alcohol stop drinking, they will frequently exhibit signs of withdrawal. They will also exhibit other behaviors like poor decision making, slurred speech, and slowed response time. Excessive use of alcohol also leads to unconsciousness and blackouts in some cases.
Understanding Alcohol: Dangers of Alcohol
Alcohol use can be very dangerous. The dangers of extended alcohol use or alcoholism are only exacerbated by its availability. Alcohol is everywhere; from restaurants to gas stations, it can be purchased anytime.
Alcohol use can lead to alcohol poisoning, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life threatening. It is responsible for more deaths than other substances, and it is legal for consumption. It can often be more dangerous than even illegal drugs in some cases.
Alcohol is even more dangerous when combined with other substances. It can have adverse reactions with medications, and in some cases cause death. Alcohol can also lead to overdose when combined with other illicit substances like heroin or cocaine.
Since alcohol is a sedative, other sedatives combined with alcohol also increase the risks of negative health effects and death.
Alcohol Addiction Explained
Despite its legality, alcohol is an extremely addictive drug. People build tolerance and dependence to it very quickly. When people drink, they enjoy the effects of it and drink more. This builds a tolerance to alcohol as drinks are consumed regularly.
Once a tolerance is formed, people drink more, or stronger drinks to achieve the same effects and enjoy the intoxicating allure of alcohol. This leads to alcohol dependency. Once a dependence is made in the body, people continue drinking and cannot function normally without it.
This causes alcohol addiction or alcoholism. When people are unable to stop drinking despite negative consequences, they are addicted to alcohol. They need more of it to function and experience withdrawal when they stop. They will prioritize alcohol over everything else, even if it causes them or others harm.
Treatment for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Alcohol is dangerous and extremely addictive. It can be impossible to stop once an addiction is formed. It can cause extreme consequences and death. If you or a family member is struggling with alcoholism, there is a way out.
A proven treatment facility and individualized treatment plan are recommended for those struggling with alcoholism. We offer extensive options for substance abuse and mental health services. Our admissions counselors are available to help you find help or a treatment program. Call us today at (800) 817-1247
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