Alcohol is a depressant that slows down the activity of the brain and other parts of the nervous system. This inhibitory effect weakens brain mechanisms that normally restrain inappropriate behaviors. Drinking alcohol therefore causes a loss of inhibitions, which can lead to embarrassing behavior, aggression, sexual abuse, and violence. Roughly 50% of violent crimes reported to the police involve people who have been drinking.
People have been drinking alcohol for its intoxicating properties for gazillions of years. They generally drink alcohol because it makes them feel
- more relaxed, happy, sociable, and confident
- less anxious, less depressed, and able to forget their problems
Other behaviors produced by alcohol include
- slurring words
- reduced inhibitions
- loss of coordination and judgment
- aggressive or rude behavior
Common street names: booze, brew, brewski, sauce, hooch, hard stuff, spirits, and juice.
How is alcohol used? Alcohol is swallowed in a variety of different drinks, including beer, wine, and liquors such as vodka, whiskey, gin, rum, brandy, and tequila.
Risk of becoming addicted: Moderate(100,000 people die from alcohol addiction and its related causes in the United States each year)
Effects on the body: Inhibition of the nervous system by alcohol can cause
- increased or decreased heart rate (depending on how much you drink)
- bloodshot eyes
- slowed breathing
The long-term effects of excessive alcohol use include liver failure, heart disease, and cancer.
Overdose: Drinking large amounts of alcohol has serious risks. The first signs of toxicity are nausea and vomiting. If a person continues to drink at this point and the amount of alcohol in the blood gets too high, the parts of the brain that control consciousness and breathing are inhibited. The drinker can then fall unconscious, stop breathing, and die within a few minutes.
How is alcohol produced? Alcohol (scientifically known as ethyl alcohol or ethanol) is produced by the action of yeast on fruits, vegetables, and grains. During this process, called fermentation, the yeast convert the natural sugars found in these foods into alcohol.
How quickly does alcohol act? The effects of drinking alcohol are generally felt within a few minutes and persist for several hours.
Testing for alcohol use: The most common test is to have a person blow up a balloon. The air in the balloon is then tested for the presence of alcohol. A more accurate test is to measure the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). In the United States it is generally illegal to drive a car with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. Many people become unconsciousness at a BAC around 0.30. Values above 0.45 can cause death.
How many teenagers drink alcohol? About 65% of high school seniors say they have used alcohol within the past year.