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 beverages.
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.
The NIAAA (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.
However, some people shouldn't drink at all. The list includes:
|Women 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 over-the-counter medications|
|People with medical conditions that can be made worse by drinking|
|People under the age of 21|
The immediate or short term effects of alcohol include impaired judgment, impaired coordination, impaired vision, and a delayed reaction time to outside stimuli.
Medical 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 weight loss.
Signs of alcohol poisoning or overdose include slow or irregular breathing, confusion, unresponsiveness or unconsciousness, clammy or pale skin (blue in color), and vomiting.
ALCOHOL ABUSE: 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 12-month period:
|Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities;|
|Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery;|
|Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk; and|
|Continued drinking 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 occasion.|
|Physical dependence: 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 high.”|
The steps to say no:
Understand what is happening. (Someone is asking you to use alcohol or other drugs.) Realize that this is serious.
Remind yourself WHY you should say no. (It's illegal, and it's bad for you) Say NO. It takes courage to do what is right.
Offer another choice. Use this step if the person offering you a drink or other drug is someone you want to keep as a friend
If your friend doesn't respect your "NO" or the person offering you alcohol or other drugs is not a friend, then use step 5.
Leave. There are some friends you may have to give up.
Ways to Say No:
Here are some ways you might try to say no to alcohol or other drugs:
No, I really don't want to.
I don't take chances with my body.
No thanks, it's against the law.
No.Let's go ride bikes instead.
I don't believe in using that stuff.
I'm on the team, and we don't use them.
Nope, don't want the hassle.
No thanks, I'm not into chemicals.
No, I need all the brains I've got.
What if Adults you care about drink too much, or use other drugs?
It's important to know that the abuse of alcohol or use of other drugs by someone else, even your parents, is not your fault. You are responsible for your choices; others are responsible for theirs.
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