The use of alcohol, as a drug, is a historically ageless. Alcohol has been part of our culture since its beginning with fermented drinks coming from nearly every fruit, vegetable and grain available. It is easy to assume that the tendency to escape from reality rather than confront and solve problems is part of the human condition.
Our European roots view alcohol as a normal part of life and used by almost everyone at nearly all social events. The legal age for beer consumption in Denmark is fifteen and the French and Italians begin allowing toddlers to sip of their parent’s intoxicants.
Because of the religious foundations in American history, we have had a love/hate relationship with alcoholic beverages, which have polarized our culture into those who view alcohol as an acceptable part of life and those that abstain and are critical of its use. Americans have blamed alcohol for the sins of society and attempted to make it illegal, only to discover that conditions worsened when it was forbidden. Today, alcohol accounts for more direct and related ills and deaths than any other drug or activity, yet more money is spent on alcohol promotion than that of any other product.
Research has shown that the public and especially its youth will make their most responsible decisions about drug use when they know the truth about drugs. Therefore…
What is Alcohol?
Chemically there are different forms of alcohol that can be used as cleaners or solvents, but ethanol, (ETOH), or grain alcohol, is the form that is consumed in alcoholic beverages and is not as poisonous as the others. Ethanol is created when grains, fruits, or vegetables are fermented, a process that uses yeast or bacteria to change sugars into alcohol.
What is the Effect of Alcohol?
When Alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, it affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) as a sedative which blocks or changes the perceptions, emotions movements, vision and hearing.
Short Term Effects: Moderate alcohol intake produces dizziness and talkativeness. Larger amounts of alcohol consumption cause slurred speech, disturbed sleep, nausea, vomiting and hangovers.
Long term Effects of consuming large quantities of alcohol leads to:
- Permanent damage to vital organs
- Several different types of cancer
- Gastrointestinal irritations, like nausea, diarrhea and ulcers
- Malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies
- Sexual dysfunctions
- High blood pressure
- Lowered resistance to diseases
- Mothers who drink during pregnancies are high risk to have infants with fetal alcohol syndrome
What is Alcoholism and How Do I Know if a Person is an Alcoholic?
Alcoholism is alcohol addiction. Alcohol is both physically and mentally addicting. The more one consumes and the younger one starts are directly related to the development of alcohol addiction. More than 40% of those who begin drinking before age 15 eventually become alcoholics.
Alcoholism has four symptoms:
- Craving: a Strong need or compulsion to drink
- Loss of control: The inability to limit one’s drinking on any given occasion
- Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness and anxiety occur when alcohol consumption is stopped after a period of heavy drinking
- Tolerance: the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get “high”.
Why is Alcohol Seen as one of the More Deadly Drugs?
In 2006, 19% of drivers 16 to 20 who died in motor vehicle accidents were driving under the influence of alcohol.
1,746 children ages 0 to 14 were killed in traffic accidents in 2006. 17% involved alcohol impaired drivers.
Mixing alcohol and medications can cause increased risk of overdoses, fainting, changes in blood pressure, breathing difficulties, liver damage, stomach bleeding, blood clots, strokes, elevated blood pressure, heart attacks, increased risk of seizures and death.
Anyone can see the danger and poisonous nature of alcohol abuse and dependence (addiction/alcoholism), yet, as a culture, we collectively condone and support “acceptable” forms of drinking and allow the alcohol industry to promote and indoctrinate our youth into believing that you must drink to have fun. As a society, and thanks to Mothers Against Drunken Driving (MADD), we have matured in our responsibility of not allowing those who drink and drive to freely endanger others, but we are still remiss in teaching that alcohol is just another drug and will ruin lives as quickly and permanently as other drugs. We are responsible for getting a new message of truth about alcohol into our vernacular.