Alcohol is a
legal depressant, a liquid obtained by fermentation of
carbohydrates by yeast or by distillation. There are many
different types of alcohol, but Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is
the type of alcohol that is used to make alcoholic
The use of
Alcohol may not become a problem when used moderately.
Moderate use of alcohol is defined as up to two drinks per
day for men and one drink per day for women and older
people. A "drink" is defined as 12 oz. of beer or a wine
cooler, a 5 oz. glass of wine, or 1.5 oz. of 80
proof distilled spirits.
(National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) states
that moderate alcohol use may be beneficial to users.
Studies have shown that moderate drinkers are less likely to
die from one form of heart disease than are people who do
not drink any alcohol or who drink more. It is believed that
these smaller amounts of alcohol help protect against heart
disease by changing the blood's chemistry, thus reducing the
risk of blood clots in the heart's arteries.
people shouldn't drink at all. The list includes:
who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
People who plan to drive
or engage in other activities that require alertness
and skill such as using high-speed machinery
People taking certain
People with medical
conditions that can be made worse by drinking
People under the age of
The immediate or
short term effects of alcohol include impaired judgment,
impaired coordination, impaired vision, and a delayed
reaction time to outside stimuli.
complications and effects of long term use include:
ALCOHOL-RELATED BIRTH DEFECTS
If you are pregnant or trying to get
pregnant, you should not drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol
while you are pregnant can cause a range of birth defects,
and children exposed to alcohol before birth can have
lifelong learning and behavioral problems. The most serious
problem that can be caused by drinking during pregnancy is
fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Children born with FAS have
severe physical, mental, and behavioral problems. Because
scientists do not know exactly how much alcohol it takes to
cause alcohol-related birth defects, it is best not to drink
any alcohol during this time.
LONG-TERM HEALTH PROBLEMS
Some problems, like those mentioned above, can occur after
drinking over a relatively short period of time. But other
problems—such as liver disease, heart disease, certain forms
of cancer, and pancreatitis—often develop more gradually and
may become evident only after many years of heavy drinking.
Women may develop alcohol-related health problems sooner
than men, and from drinking less alcohol than men. Because
alcohol affects nearly every organ in the body, long-term
heavy drinking increases the risk for many serious health
problems, some of which are described on the following page.
ALCOHOL-RELATED LIVER DISEASE:
More than 2 million Americans suffer from alcohol-related
liver disease. Some drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis, or
inflammation of the liver, as a result of heavy drinking
over a long period of time. Its symptoms include fever,
jaundice (abnormal yellowing of the skin, eyeballs, and
urine), and abdominal pain. Alcoholic hepatitis can cause
death if drinking continues. If drinking stops, the
condition may be reversible. About 10 to 20 percent of heavy
drinkers develop alcoholic cirrhosis, or scarring of the
liver. People with cirrhosis should not drink alcohol.
Although treatment for the complications of cirrhosis is
available, a liver transplant may be needed for someone with
life-threatening cirrhosis. Alcoholic cirrhosis can cause
death if drinking continues. Cirrhosis is not reversible,
but if a person with cirrhosis stops drinking, the chances
of survival improve considerably. People with cirrhosis
often feel better, and liver function may improve, after
they stop drinking. About 4 million Americans are infected
with hepatitis C virus (HCV), which can cause liver
cirrhosis and liver cancer. Some heavy drinkers also have
HCV infection. As a result, their livers may be damaged not
only by alcohol but by HCV-related problems as well. People
with HCV infection are more susceptible to alcohol-related
liver damage and should think carefully about the risks when
considering whether to drink alcohol.
HEART DISEASE: Moderate
drinking can have beneficial effects on the heart,
especially among those at greatest risk for heart attacks,
such as men over the age of 45 and women after menopause.
However, heavy drinking over a long period of time increases
the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and some
kinds of stroke.
CANCER: Long-term heavy
drinking increases the risk of certain forms of cancer,
especially cancer of the esophagus, mouth, throat, and
larynx (voice box). Research suggests that, in some women,
as little as one drink per day can slightly raise the risk
of breast cancer. Drinking may also increase the risk for
developing cancer of the colon and rectum.
PANCREAITIS: The pancreas
helps regulate the body’s blood sugar levels by producing
insulin. The pancreas also has a role in digesting the food
we eat. Long-term heavy drinking can lead to pancreatitis,
or inflammation of the pancreas. Acute pancreatitis can
cause severe abdominal pain and can be fatal. Chronic
pancreatitis is associated with chronic pain, diarrhea, and
Signs of alcohol
poisoning or overdose include slow or irregular breathing,
confusion, unresponsiveness or unconsciousness, clammy or
pale skin (blue in color), and vomiting.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines alcohol abuse as "a maladaptive
drinking pattern that repeatedly causes life problems."
Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that
results in one or more of the following situations within a
Failure to fulfill major
work, school, or home
Drinking in situations
that are physically dangerous, such as while driving
a car or operating machinery;
alcohol-related legal problems, such as being
arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol
or for physically hurting someone while drunk; and
despite having ongoing relationship problems that
are caused or worsened by the drinking.
ALCOHOLISM: Alcoholism is a
disease that includes four symptoms:
Craving: A strong need
or compulsion to drink.
Loss of control: The
inability to limit one’s drinking on any given
Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating,
shakiness, and anxiety, occur when alcohol use is
stopped after a period of heavy drinking.
Tolerance: The need to
drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to “get