Alcohol, Alcoholism and Recovery
November 13, 2009
How many people out there drink alcohol or know someone who does? The consumption of alcoholic beverages can intertwine with many traditions. Moderate use of alcohol can enhance celebrations or special times. Research shows that very low levels of drinking may lower some health risks. We may also consume alcohol to help ease the pain caused by rejection or loss. Alcohol is the most widely used and abused recreational drug in our society. Deciding whether to drink is a personal decision that we each eventually have to make. Although not everyone that drinks alcohol becomes an alcoholic, ...view middle of the document...
The stakes of binge drinking are high because of the increased risk for alcohol-related injuries and death. According to a 2005 study, 1,700 college students die each year due to alcohol-related unintentional injuries, (Eckerd.edu 2009) including car accidents. Binge drinking is the number-one cause of preventable death among undergraduate college students in the United States today. Unfortunately, recent studies confirm what students have been experiencing for a long-time; binge drinkers cause problems not only for themselves, but also for those around them. Alcohol kills more people under the age of 21 than cocaine, marijuana, and heroine combined.
The intoxicating substance found in beer, wine, liquor, and liqueurs are ethyl alcohol, or more commonly known as ethanol. Alcohol is produced during a process called fermentation, whereby yeast organisms break down plant sugars, yielding ethanol, and carbon dioxide. Fermentation continues until the solution of plant sugars (called mash) reaches a concentration of 14% alcohol. At this point, the alcohol kills the yeast and halts the chemical reactions that produced it.
For beers and ales, which are fermented from malt barley, manufacturers add other ingredients that dilute the alcohol content of the beverage. Other alcoholic beverages are produced through further processing called distillation, during which alcohol vapors are released from the mash at high temperatures. The vapors are condensed and mixed with water to make the product.
The proof of an alcoholic drink is a measure of the percentage of alcohol in the beverage. “Proof” comes from “gunpowder proof,” a reference to the gunpowder test, whereby potential buyers would test the distiller’s product by pouring it on gunpowder and attempting to light it. If the alcohol content was at least 50%, the gun powder would burn; otherwise the water in the product would put out the flame. Thus, alcohol percentage is 50% of the given proof. For example, 80 proof whiskey or scotch is 40% alcohol by volume, and 100 proof vodka is 50% alcohol by volume. The proof of a beverage indicates its strength. Lower-proof drinks will produce fewer alcoholic effects than the same amount of higher-proof drinks.
Unlike the molecules found in most other ingestible foods and drugs, alcohol molecules are sufficiently small and fat soluble to be absorbed throughout the entire gastrointestinal system. A very small amount of alcohol is absorbed through the lining of the mouth. Approximately 20% of ingested alcohol defuses through the stomach lining into the bloodstream, and nearly 80% passes through the linings of the small intestine. Absorption into the bloodstream is rapid and complete.
Several factors influence how quickly the body will absorb alcohol: the alcohol concentration in the drink, the amount of alcohol consumed, the amount of food in the stomach, metabolism, weight, body mass index, and mood. The higher the concentration of...