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What Is Alcohol?

Alcohol, or alcoholic drinks, are intoxicating beverages that contain ethanol, a type of alcohol derived from fermented fruits, grains and sugars. Among adults, alcohol drinking is a popular social pastime. Alcohol works as a depressant that calms nerves, lowers inhibitions and makes people more sociable. In the US, roughly 85% of adults consume alcohol in their lifetime.

Alcohol has intoxicating effects that can diminish balance, coordination, memory and judgment of over-consumed. The act of binge drinking, where a person consumes excessive amounts of alcohol in short periods, is a common cause of danger. In the US, it is illegal for anyone with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher to operate motor vehicles.

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Types of Alcoholic Beverages

Alcoholic beverages have existed since the late Stone Age when early humans first discovered the art of fermentation. Today, alcoholic drinks are produced in numerous varieties for different cultures and settings. 

  • Wine – Wine is made from fermented grapes. White wine is made from white and green grapes. Red wine is made from purple grapes; the purple outer skin causes redness. Wine is the most popular adult beverage in restaurants and home dining. Wine is also made from fermented plums, cherries, currants, elderberries and pomegranates. 
  • Beer – Beer is made from brewed and fermented starches sourced from grains. The most common grain in modern beer is hops, which creates dark and bitter beer. Other brewed grains include malted barley, wheat, oats, rice and corn. Beer is the most popular drink at bars and raunchy 21+ events, such as rock shows and beach parties.
  • Cider – Cider is made from fermented apples. It’s a popular social drink in the UK, Ireland and Europe. Cider has also spread to commonwealth nations like Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The apples are fermented for “sweet cider” and “hard cider” varieties. In the US, cider is a popular choice at Irish pubs. 
  • Champagne – Champagne is a sparkling wine that originates from the province of Champagne, France. Its production (and carbonation) involves exclusively sourced grapes with special pressing techniques and secondary fermentation. Most champagnes are made from one of three grape types: Pinot noir, Pinot meunier, and Chardonnay. Champagne is the adult drink of choice at formal events and high-society functions.
  • Liquor – Liquor (also known as spirits) is hard alcohol made from distilled fruits, vegetables, sugar and grains that have already been fermented into alcohol. Through distillation, the ethanol content increases, giving it a harder taste, smell and effect. Liquors include gin, schnapps, rum, whisky, tequila, brandy and vodka. Liquors are popular at dive bars.
  • Wine coolers – Wine coolers are light, carbonated alcoholic beverages produced from combinations of fruit juice and wine. They became popular in the early 1980s as an alternative to beer and hard liquor. Wine coolers are often consumed at picnics, barbecues, beach parties and music festivals. Brands like Bartles & Jaymes produce wine coolers in numerous fruity and colorful flavors.

Alcoholic drinks are an acquired taste for most people. The smell and taste are strong at first to the uninitiated. Most people start with mild drinks and work their way to stronger, thicker alcoholic beverages. Alcoholic drinks are meant to be sipped, not gulped or downed like drinking water. To soften the effects, people should not drink alcohol on an empty stomach.

Why Do People Drink Alcohol?

People drink for social and cultural reasons. Among adults, drinking is often viewed as customary at social events. Drinking is also seen as a romantic activity among couples on dinner dates. For young people, drinking is often a peer group activity.

  • Socialization – Adults drink because it’s a social pastime at bars, parties and business gatherings. People drink among work colleagues at happy hours. Couples drink over dinner at romantic restaurants. Friends drink at clubs on weekends. Sports fans drink at bars while watching their team on the TV screens.
  • Enjoyment – People drink to let loose and enjoy themselves more in social settings. Alcohol lowers inhibitions and makes people more outgoing, talkative and raw. People who are normally shy become more free-spirited once they’ve had a few drinks. After a stressful day at work, alcohol calms the nerves and induces euphoria.
  • Relaxation – Alcohol helps people unwind after a long day of work. As a sipping drink, people can sit back in groups with glasses of wine and discuss the events of the week. When people get home, they might sip a glass of wine while watching television.
  • Confidence – Alcohol can help people feel more confident in situations that some find intimidating. At bars and nightclubs, one drink can help guys muster the courage to approach women. At business events, alcohol helps people lower their guards and interact with other entrepreneurs without letting egos get in the way. 
  • Environment – People often drink because of their surroundings. At functions where champagne is served, most adults will accept a glass to relate to those around them. Most people vibe off the mood of a crowd or place and sometimes drinking goes with the picture.
  • Peer Pressure – For young people, the urge to drink is often spurred by peer activity. In the US, college students under the legal drinking age often binge drink at parties. This can be dangerous, especially when youth mix binge drinking with drugs.

People should limit their alcohol consumption to 1–2 drinks an evening and limit drinking nights to weekends. Women, due to their leaner mass and higher amount of fat tissue, should only drink half as much as men.

Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol can have bad, toxic and unhealthy effects on people who don’t control their intake. When people drink on an empty stomach, the alcohol travels to the bloodstream faster. In two hours, 2–3 drinks could render a person tipsy. The manifestations of drunkenness include:

  • Lowered inhibition – Alcohol makes people feel less inhibited. To a certain degree, this is a good thing. One drink could give a shy guy the confidence to approach a woman who ends up becoming his girlfriend or wife. Alcohol can also lower people’s sense of judgment and do foolish, risky and regrettable things.
  • Memory loss – Alcohol muddles the mind and makes people forgetful. When intoxicated, it’s difficult for most people to remember recent information, such as where they are and how they got there. This can be dangerous when a person needs to make an emergency call but can’t remember his/her smartphone PIN.
  • Lack of coordination – Alcohol impairs people’s balance and hand-eye coordination. This is why people shouldn’t drink and drive. Intoxication makes it difficult to view things from afar and perceive speed and distances. That’s why drunk drivers often swerve off roads and unintentionally hit pedestrians and other motorists.
  • Shamelessness – Alcohol renders people shameless in social situations. A person who’s normally mannered and reserved might suddenly become coarse and vulgar after a few drinks. A person who’s been holding back unkind thoughts might suddenly let loose and say regrettable things when under the influence.
  • Reduced capacity – People are less physically and mentally capable when under the influence. A star athlete is not going to throw or hit a ball properly while drunk. A lecturer is not going to recite his/her monologues after a few drinks. A singer can’t break into a song with proper pitch while drunk.
  • Belligerence – A person with an irritable streak could become hostile and violent when drunk. In bars where several aggressive people get drunk and start arguing, barroom brawls sometimes break out. This was often the impetus of gun matches in the Wild West.

Some of the most dangerous incidents of public intoxication stem from binge drinking, where the individual downs multiple drinks in quick succession. For men, binging is defined as 4–5 drinks in two hours. For women, 3–4 drinks in two hours is considered binging.

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Most adults drink alcohol and keep their intake under control. Some people go overboard when they drink. In some cases, the incidents are isolated and the people are supervised. It becomes a real problem when alcohol abuse becomes a daily thing and the person can’t go more than several hours without a drink. 

  • Disheveled appearance – Alcohol addiction causes people to lose sight of their appearance and grooming. A once stylish individual might now walk around with unkempt hair, ill-fitted clothing and poorly matched wardrobe articles. A drunken individual might also care less about his/her odor, breath and cleanliness.
  • Bloodshot eyes – People who drink constantly often have bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils. In the daytime, people shouldn’t have enlarged pupils because this lets in more light. Dilation is caused by muscle relaxation around the iris. Over time, dilation can damage a person’s eyesight.
  • Slurred speech – This is a sign of severe intoxication. People who are way over the limit tend to speak in loud, blaring, slurred tones. This can be habit-forming for people who drink constantly, night and day. Slurred speech is common among people who abuse alcohol in combination with other drugs like heroin and meth.
  • Incoherence – With slurred speech comes incoherence. People with alcohol use disorder are often unable to form sentences that make sense. For longtime alcohol abusers, it could stem from cumulative damage to the brain. The person is often unaware of his/her ability to communicate properly.
  • Social withdrawal – As people get more into booze, they tend to withdraw from friends and family. At work, the individual may grow distant from colleagues and avoid happy hours and company parties. The person might frequent bars with like-minded drinkers or become a lone, quiet, secretive drinker.
  • Declining work performance – This often accompanies social withdrawal and personal decline. A person who was once energetic and devoted to his/her job might now cut corners and miss key meetings. Projects might get turned in subpar and lacking compared to prior work.

As the person drinks more and more, he/she could run into personal, financial and legal trouble. Alcohol tears people from their loved ones. Couples often divorce over one partner’s alcoholism. People get terminated from their jobs for lackluster performance due to drinking.

Dangers of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol addiction can lead to health problems, financial loss and physical danger. People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol can damage vital organs. Some of the worst risks include:

  • Liver damage – Too much alcohol can damage the liver, which filters toxins out of food and drinks before they enter the intestine and get absorbed into the bloodstream. The liver can handle moderate alcohol intake but not 5–10 drinks a day. This overwhelms the liver and prevents it from working. Liver damage has a domino effect throughout the body.
  • Brain damage – Alcohol slows the respiratory system. If the person breathes too slow, too often, it can deprive the brain of oxygen. This, combined with intoxication, can cause brain damage.  
  • Heart disease – As a depressant, alcohol slows the heart. When a person drinks too much over long periods, it can slow the heart to dangerous levels and cause heart disease. It’s even more dangerous when a person mixes alcohol with other depressants like fentanyl, heroin or opioid painkillers. 
  • Stroke – Alcohol can impede blood flow and lead to blocked arteries and strokes. A stroke is a brain attack where brain vessels burst. This can leave part of the body permanently dysfunctional.
  • Injury – Alcohol addiction can lead to injury if a person drives while intoxicated and crashes into a fence, tree, street divider, wall or another vehicle. When drunk, a person might dive off bridges or jump off balconies, not sensing the depth of the drop. 
  • Legal trouble – Intoxication can lead to trouble with the law. If a person gets pulled over for reckless driving and fails a sobriety test, this would be a DUI, which results in suspension, a fine and other possible penalties. Drunk driving fatalities can lead to manslaughter convictions and jail time.

When people fall into alcohol addiction, they often deny the problem. Few people get help at their own accord. Most people need to be persuaded to seek treatment. Some will open up about their problem but others deflect and avoid the issue.

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Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

If someone you know struggles with alcohol addiction, call the rehab centers in your area and ask about their treatment programs and insurance options. If you need help getting the person to agree to treatment, ask the local rehab centers if they offer intervention help. Act now before the problem goes too far.

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