An alcoholic beverage is a drink that contains alcohol (ethanol). Alcohol numbs the brain functions, reducing self-criticism and the ability to properly assess situations, oneself and others. Drinking a lot of alcohol is bad for health. If a person drinks too much, he or she gets drunk.
Alcohol is produced by fermentation of barley (beer) or grapes (wine). Yeast is a micro-organism that turns sugars in fruit juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide. By fermentation, an alcohol percentage of up to 15% may be created. This is called low alcoholic beverage. By distillation (heating and cooling), higher alcohol percentages may be achieved. These drinks are called spirits.
Alcohol enters the blood through the stomach and the small intestine. Via blood, the alcohol spreads throughout the body. When the stomach is full, it can slightly slow down the absorption of alcohol. An empty stomach can ensure a more rapid absorption of alcohol.
Alcohol numbs the brains, causing a person to behave differently than when being sober. After about ten minutes, someone notices to be under the influence of alcohol. A small amount of alcohol creates a bolder, active sensation. But one can also be aggressive or careless, quiet, sleepy, relaxed, indifferent, etc. If a person drinks too much alcohol, he or she gets drunk and runs short-term risk of vomiting, blackouts and hangovers. Long-term excessive drinking can lead to various diseases and damage to several organs.
Risks associated with using alcohol include:
- Physical and mental dependence or addiction.
- Mortality and illness due to road accidents and violent offenses.
- Elevated blood pressure and consequently a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Unconsciousness or acute mortal danger after more than 20 glasses of alcohol.
- Tumors of the oral cavity and pharynx, larynx and esophagus, colon and rectum.
- Liver diseases, such as fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
- Brain damage (when drinking large amounts of alcohol).
- Chronic excessive alcohol consumption can cause a mild form of type 2 diabetes.
- Reduced fertility in women and possibly also in men.
- Damage to the unborn child during pregnancy.
- Damage to the baby during breastfeeding.
Alcoholism is an addiction to alcohol. Depending on the degree of addiction, treatment can be started, in which the person concerned can work on his or her problems at home or where one seeks help in a rehab or with a therapist. The decision on the type of treatment is best made in consultation with a doctor and the family. This is because addiction not only significantly affects one’s own life, but also that of the partner and other people around. During treatment, the person concerned will be encouraged to reduce or even completely quit drinking alcohol. This may cause so-called withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, hand tremors, excessive sweating, nausea, insomnia, fatigue, high blood pressure, anxiety, sadness, agitation, decreased consciousness and hallucinations.
Therapy sessions are aimed to increase the motivation to quit. Moreover, attempts are made to regain control over the person’s own drinking and to reduce the risk of a relapse. Any additional conditions, such as depression and anxiety, are treated and interventions take place to prevent future problems at work and in social life.
- The term ‘alcohol’ is derived from the Arabic words al (the) and kuḥl (distillate of liquids).
- Alcohol affects women more than men. Alcohol distributes over all body fluids. In men, an average of 60% of the body is made up of body fluids, in women this is slightly above 50%. In addition, hormonal factors play a role in the degree of drunkenness.
- 10% of people who start with alcohol will eventually drink too much and 3% ends up addicted.
- Globally, Eastern Europeans are among the heaviest drinkers.