Alcohol Facts

What is alcohol?

Alcohol is any of a series of volatile hydroxyl compounds that are made from hydrocarbons by distillation. Alcohol is produced by fermenting the sugar or starch from various fruits and grains. Ethanol (or Ethyl Alcohol) which is mostly used in beverage drinks is a member of the alcohol category of chemicals. A fairly well-known alcohol fact is that ethanol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system, even though it’s less toxic than other members of the series. Alcoholic drinks include beer (5%alcohol), wine (12-15% alcohol) and liquor (45% alcohol).

How does alcohol work?

Among other important alcohol facts, the process of its metabolism needs special attention: alcohol, unlike food, is not digested but gets absorbed fast into the bloodstream. The blood carries the alcohol to all-important organs, such as the liver, heart and brain. The nervous system is affected and thus influences the activity of the person. The drinker’s blood alcohol concentration depends on:

  • The amount consumed in a given time
  • The drinker’s size, sex, body build, and metabolism
  • The type and amount of food in the stomach.

Once the alcohol has passed into the blood, however, no food, coffee or beverage can retard or interfere with its effects. Fruit sugar, however, in some cases can shorten the duration of alcohol’s effect by speeding up its elimination from the blood.

Is alcohol always bad?

No, on the contrary, regular and moderate consumption of alcohol (especially red wine) has purported benefits for the health, especially for heart diseases, strokes, diabetes, osteoporosis and Alzheimers disease. Doctors recommend it as a “diet supplement” for middle-aged people.

Short term effects of alcohol

The first drop of alcohol reaches the brain within minutes after drinking. One or two drinks per hour makes a person more relaxed and gives a feeling of warmth. On three drinks you already feel a bit sedated and you react slower. Seven drinks and you have poor coordination, you cannot walk straight anymore. After 18 drinks your body temperature drops, and you cannot remember things anymore. If you drink more, then you are in a critical condition and can even experience a coma or die.

Long term effects of alcohol

Long-term effects of alcohol appear after repeated use over a period of many months or years. Over the long term, constant use of alcohol can seriously damage your health causing liver, heart diseases, gastrointestinal irritation and sexual dysfunction. This is associated with sleeping problems, cramps, high blood pressure, and convulsions. Psychological symptoms include irritability, short-term memory loss and loss of control. Very often this leads to addiction, aggressive paranoid behavior and depression.

Do all people react the same to alcohol?

Of course, not everybody has the same reaction. There are factors that influence the speed of alcohol metabolism. In other words the rate of metabolism is about 8.5 g of alcohol per hour but this varies among individuals depending on factors like:

  • Weight. The more you weigh, the more water is present in your body, which dilutes the alcohol and lowers the blood alcohol level.
  • Sex. Women’s tissues have less water and more fat than men’s bodies. Alcohol does not go into fat cells so women tend to retain more alcohol in their blood.
  • Age. One drink raises the blood alcohol level of an older adult 20% more than it does for a young adult.
  • Food in your stomach absorbs some of the alcohol, in this case the alcohol concentration will be higher if you do not eat before or during drinking.
  • The number of drinks per hour. As you increase the number of drinks per hour, your blood alcohol level steadily increases.
  • Tolerance to alcohol – a person who has a high tolerance needs more amounts of alcohol to reach the same concentration of alcohol as a person with a low tolerance.
  • Other medication in combination with alcohol emphasizes the perception of alcohol in the body. Also, a person who uses other drugs, such as marijuana, will feel the effects of both drugs more than if the drugs were used separately.

Resources

Breathalyzer.net – distributes several different hand-held models, including the highly regarded BACtrack consumer hand-held unit for consumers, and the BACtrack Pro for professional use.

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