What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is a depressant and contains ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Ethanol is an intoxicating ingredient in beer, wine and liquor, and produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars and starches.

What are its short term effects?

When a person drinks alcohol, the alcohol is absorbed by the stomach, enters the bloodstream, and goes to all the tissues. The effects of alcohol are dependent on a variety of factors, including a person’s size, weight, age and sex, as well as the amount of food and alcohol consumed. The disinhibiting effect of alcohol is one of the main reasons it is used in so many social situations. Other effects of moderate alcohol intake include dizziness and increased socialbility; the immediate effects of a larger amount of alcohol include slurred speech, disturbed sleep, nausea and vomiting. Alcohol, even at low doses, significantly impairs the judgment and coordination required to drive a car safely. Low to moderate doses of alcohol can also increase the incidence of a variety of aggressive acts, including domestic violence and child abuse. Hangovers are another effect after large amounts of alcohol are consumed; a hangover consists of headaches, nausea, thirst, dizziness and fatigue.

What are its long-term effects?

Prolonged, heavy use of alcohol can lead to addiction (alcoholism). Sudden cessation of long term, extensive alcohol intake is likely to produce withdrawal symptoms, including severe anxiety, tremors, hallucinations and convulsions. Long-term effects of consuming large quantities of alcohol, especially when combined with poor nutrition, can lead to permanent damage to vital organs such as the brain, heart, pancreas and liver. Drinking too much alcohol can also weaken the immune system and can increase the risks of developing cancers. In addition, mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy may give birth to infants with fetal alcohol syndrome. These infants may suffer from mental retardation and other irreversible physical abnormalities. In addition, research indicates that children of alcoholic parents are at greater risk than other children of becoming alcoholics.

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Facts about Alcohol 

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

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