Alcohol is the intoxicating part of beer, wine and liquors-the part that causes drunkenness. It is formed during fermentation, the process that creates the alcohlolicbeverage. When sugars from the fruits or grains are combined with yeast and water, alcohol results. Alcohol is a drug and, like all drugs, it has an effect on a person’s body and mind. Because drinking alcoholic beverages makes some people feel more alive and more outgoing, alcohol is sometimes seen as a stimulant. But in fact it is a depressant, and slows down the central nervous system, of which the brain is a part.
Small amounts of alcohol can affect a person’s coordination and judgment. Drinking a large amount of alcohol at one time can even cause death.
Alcohol is estimated to be contributing factor in 20-30% of all accidents. In fatal car accidents involving young men after 10pm it is a contributory factor in 60% of these cases. About 30% of all drowning are estimated to be alcohol related.
This proportion may rise to 50% between the ages 20-30. Alcohol is also a poisonous. It must be broken down and removed from the body. However, it leaves behind toxins, or poisons, that can cause health problems and contribute to serious diseases. Beer contains the least amount of alcohol, about 3-6%. Wine is 8-14 percent alcohol. Distilled spirits have a much higher alcoholic content. The alcoholic content of gin, scotch, vodka, whiskey, rum, and bourbon is about 40%. When alcohol enters the body this is what happens. Within 20 minutes of entering the stomach, as much as 20% of the alcohol in a drink is absorbed into the bloodstream. The rest remains in the stomach where it stimulates the secretion of gastric juices. Large amounts of alcohol entering an empty stomach can irritate the gastric lining and cause the stomach to become inflamed. From the stomach, the alcohol passes into the small intestine. Here the rest of it is absorbed through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. From the bloodstream, about 5 percent of alcohol leave the body unchanged through urine, sweat, or exhaled breath. Next the alcohol travels via the bloodstream to the heart. Small amounts of alcohol produce a slight increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Larger amounts reduce pumping power of the heart and can cause an irregular heartbeat. The heart then pumps the alcohol through the blood vessels to other parts of the body, including the brain.
Drinking puts on pounds, right? Wrong! It is widely thought that drinking alcohol leads to increases in weight, but this common belief is not supported by scientific evidence. For example, a recent review of 38 studies found that over two-thirds of them showed either weight loss or no relationship in alcohol and weight. The reason alcohol does not generally lead to weight gain is currently the subject of scientific debate and investigation. However, one thing is clear: the majority of medical research studies over the past ten years have found that moderate consumption of alcohol does not lead to weight gain.
Recent Harvard study found the risk of death from all causes to be 21% to 28% lower among men who drank alcohol moderately compared to abstainers. (World Health Organization)
Almost one half of seniors drink alcohol at least once a month, about 20% drink at least once a week. Nearly one third of ninth graders drink alcohol at least once a month 12% drink at least once a week. Regular use of alcohol has not changed significantly since 1989. (Casey ! 1) Crime is inextricably related to alcohol and other drugs. (AOD) Annually 480,000 arrests for liquor law violations and 704,000 arrests for drunkenness for alcohol. Alcohol is a key factor in up to 68% of manslaughter’s, 62% of assaults, 54% of murders or attempted murders, 48% of robberies, 44% of burglaries. In 1992 there were 6,839 deaths due to alcohol. A couple years back 64% of all reported child abuse and neglect cases in New York City were associated AOD abuse. (Lang 55)
While the moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with better health and longer life than is abstinence, the heavy consumption of alcohol, especially over a period of many years, can lead to serious health problems and even death. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is an irreversible condition associated with excessive consumption of alcohol by pregnant women and is, therefore, completely preventable. Each and every case of FAS is a needless tragedy. Victims suffer serious physical deformities and often mental deficiencies. And, they suffer these problems for their entire lives. While most cases occur among alcoholics who consume alcohol heavily throughout their pregnancies, no one knows for certain what level of alcohol consumption is safe for a pregnant woman.
Cirrhosis is probably the most widely recognized medical complication of chronic alcoholism. It is a grave and irreversible condition characterized by progressive replacement of healthy liver tissues with scars, which can lead to liver failure and death.
There have been many procedures used to take precautions against irresponsible alcoholics. Police have taken action and have the power to breathalyse. Although this has helped catch drunk drivers the problem hasn’t stopped. The Police have asked for restrictions on breathtesting drivers to be removed. This would help them to use their powers more effectively both as a deterrent and also to target drunk drivers who remain undeterred. There is evidence that high profile breathtesting cuts casualty rates. An argument frequently implied by the alcohol industry against lowering the limit is that such a step would not effect casualties as road deaths tend to be caused primarily by drivers with very high blood alcohol levels who ignore a lower limit just as they ignore the present one. The fact is that the number of alcohol related deaths occur when any level of alcohol is consumed. The same number of casualties occurs with a very low limit of alcohol in comparison to very high.
Alcoholism can lead to many serious problems for the alcoholic and the people surrounding them. This is a disease that takes millions of lives every year and should be taken seriously. Alcoholism is a disease that can be helped. Many programs have been formed to help teach alcohol prevention. New laws and regulations provide a reinforcement to punish offenders, which may in the end teach them to stay sober. Whether you’re an alcoholic or not the facts are in print and the consequences remain, but the choice is yours.
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