Archive for category Alcohol'

Alcohol Use and Sexual Behavior

Generally, when “disinhibition” as a consequence of alcohol use is discussed major interest is in the disinhibition of behavior rather than feelings. Alcohol could directly disinhibit behavior through its physiological and expectancy effects or alcohol could heighten sexual feelings which in turn could lead to changes in sexual behavior. A global relationship between overall frequency or quantity of alcohol use and overall frequency of sexual behavior in women does exist. Women who drink more heavily may evidence more “nontraditional” sexual behaviors, including premarital intercourse, masturbation to orgasm, and admitted homosexual feelings. It is commonly believed that young women, particularly those in new or casual relationships, are more likely to engage in sexual behavior after they consume alcohol. However, whereas the literature clearly suggests that alcohol use, at least in moderate amount, increases feelings of sexual arousal and desire and decreases feelings of inhibition for some groups of women, much less evidence supports its disinhibition of women’s sexual behavior. Feelings about sex — sexual desires and urges — that may be enhanced through alcohol use are not necessarily reflected in behavior. Read more […]

Alcohol Tolerance Development in Humans: Tests of the Learning Hypothesis

Tolerance to alcohol may be defined as a reduction in response to a given dose of alcohol after repeated administrations. A great deal of research has been devoted to the study of this phenomenon (), but studies of tolerance development in humans who are not alcoholic have been few, perhaps because such studies were thought to expose participants to the risk of developing dependence on alcohol. However, recent studies suggest that tolerance development can be studied safely in human social drinkers (). As well, similarities between learning and some forms of tolerance to drugs have been described (). This paper reports two studies designed to test the hypothesis that tolerance to alcohol in human social drinkers may be subject to the laws of instrumental learning. Experiment 1 Animal research has shown that the development of tolerance on behavioral measures is often dependent upon the reinforcement contingencies which maintain those behaviors. Specifically, tolerance seems most likely to occur when the initial effects of a drug act to reduce the amount of reinforcement received by the organism, a principle first described by Schuster and his coworkers (). Recent human studies suggest a parallel between animal and Read more […]

Types and Phases of Alcohol Dependence Illness

Definition of Alcoholism There are four current definitions of alcoholism. The first and most commonly accepted definition is provided by the World Health Organization: Alcoholics are those excessive drinkers whose dependence upon alcohol has attained such a degree that it shows a noticeable mental disturbance or an interference with their bodily and mental health, their interpersonal relations, and their smooth social and economic functioning; or [those] who show the prodromal signs of such developments. Within this definition, the expert committee on health distinguished two subtypes, “alcohol addicts” and habitual excessive “symptomatic drinkers,” the latter group composed of nonaddicted individuals who produce social, economic, or health costs because of their drinking patterns. Several significant authorities have recently taken a second position that alcoholism is a unitary disease. Mann, Gitlow, Madsen, and Johnson all hold that there is a single disease entity, alcoholism, identifiable by its history, symptoms, and signs, which form a recognizable pattern. Although obscure on this point, the criteria of the National Council on Alcoholism for the diagnosis of alcoholism can be interpreted as implying that Read more […]

Types of Alcoholics

Eight reviews of studies of the “alcoholic” personality have concluded that research has failed to establish the existence of any single constellation of personality traits in alcoholics that would predispose a person to alcoholism. The most recent reviewer, Barnes, concluded that alcoholics present a fairly common personality pattern when they arrive for treatment but acknowledged that the evidence for a prealcoholic personality is limited to reports from one group of researchers. Most research on the clinical alcoholic personality has been successful in characterizing how alcoholics are different from normal subjects or psychiatric patients, but it has not satisfied those clinicians who have been impressed with the subgroupings of personality within alcoholism treatment populations. The following review is organized around five themes in the research literature about subdivision of alcoholics into types as follows: (1) essential versus reactive alcoholics; (2) primary versus affective disorder alcoholics; (3) psychiatric syndrome groups: depressed versus neurotic versus psychopathic alcoholics; (4) clustered personality trait type alcoholics; (5) successful and unsuccessful “life style” alcoholics. In order Read more […]

Types and Phases of Alcohol Dependence Illness: Methods

Methodological Issues in Studies of Phases of Alcohol Dependence The reader should be alert to major methodological weaknesses that characterize the studies to be discussed. Perhaps most critical is the peculiar nature of the samples studied. The subjects are almost all individuals who have come voluntarily to a facility or organization that treats alcohol problems. They are thus self-defined to some extent as alcoholics. Often, it is not possible to determine from the criteria for entry into the study if they are indeed addicts or dependent rather than simply having alcohol-related problems for which they seek relief in a hospital. They have, at least to some extent, accepted a cultural view of themselves as being disabled and requiring help in order to overcome their disability. Many have failed to achieve or maintain desirable social roles and status. They have also picked up culturally influenced stereotypes of alcohol effects and alcoholics. It is to be expected that their recollection of events in their life history will tend to incorporate these cultural images. Problems of recall may be considerable as subjects are asked to report on events that have occurred as much as 30 years earlier. The problem of recall Read more […]

It Touches Everyone

Most people who drink alcoholic beverages suffer no ill effects. They drink moderately with meals and in social settings. “For most people alcohol is a pleasant accompaniment to social activities. Moderate alcohol use is not harmful for most adults,” says the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). In the United States, two-thirds of adults drink alcoholic beverages at least occasionally, a figure that is similar to consumption patterns in other nations. For most drinkers, alcohol is an enjoyable addition to many facets of their daily lives; it creates no problems and does not endanger their health. For a small percentage of people, however, drinking can be dangerous. These drinkers run a very high risk of becoming addicted to alcohol. John Lawson, in Friends You Can Drop: Alcohol and Other Drugs, explains that this human malady, known today as alcoholism, is an ancient one: The alcoholism syndrome is one of man’s oldest afflictions, cited in his earliest writing, a source of misery and lingering death that has remained a constant over the centuries. Other devastating, epidemic illnesses have been conquered and have moved into the realm of medical history. [But] alcoholism has remained, blighting Read more […]

A History of Alcohol Use

Alcohol is a clear, thin, odorless liquid that is produced by fermentation. Fermentation is a chemical reaction that occurs naturally when yeast, a microscopic plant that floats freely in the air, reacts with food that contains sugar. Fruits and berries have sugar in the form of fructose, which ferments as they become overripe due to yeast. Grains from wheat, rye, and barley also have natural sugars that can be transformed into alcohol as they age. Birds can become drunk from eating such fermented foods, and biologists have observed that animals in the wild sometimes become intoxicated in the same way. How or when people first discovered how to control the fermentation process is unknown. However, historians know that people have been drinking alcoholic beverages for thousands of years. In Alcohol: The Delightful Poison, historian Alice Fleming explains the widespread use of this ancient drug: Alcohol has been intriguing and intoxicating human beings for at least seven thousand years. Nobody knows when, how, or by whom it was first discovered, but the chances are good that this happened by accident. Alcohol has turned up in different places at different times and in different forms [since before the start of recorded Read more […]

Healing Alcohol

When de Villeneuve discovered how to distill alcohol and named it “water of life,” he argued, “This name is remarkably suitable, since it is really a water of immortality. It prolongs life, clears away [sickness], and maintains youth.” Two hundred years later, Hieronymous Brunschwig, a German doctor, referred to de Villeneuve’s aqua vitae as “the mistress of all medicines” and claimed, It eases the diseases coming of cold, it comforts the heart, it heals all old and new sores on the head. It causes a good color in a person. It heals [baldness] and causes the hair well to grow, and kills lice and fleas. It cures lethargy. Cotton wet in the same and a little wrung out again and so put in the ears at night before going to bed … is of good [cure] against deafness. For many centuries, people in almost every society valued wine for its medicinal qualities, sometimes simply as the recommended liquid with which to consume other medical remedies. The Greek sage Hippocrates included wine in a list of important medicines, and Roman physicians endorsed it as a dressing for wounds, a fever fighter, and a restorative beverage. The Talmud, a Jewish book of wisdom, claims that “wine taken in moderation induces appetites and Read more […]

Social Drinking

Today alcohol is a welcome addition to most of life’s personal and public rites and rituals, something that was also true hundreds of years ago. In his study of popular beliefs in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, Keith Thomas writes,  [Alcohol] was built into the fabric of social life. It played a part in nearly every public and private ceremony, every commercial bargain, every craft ritual, every private occasion of mourning or rejoicing. As a Frenchman observed in 1672, there was no business which could be done in England without pots of beer. The English even gave a name to their inclusion of drinking into almost every social and business aspect of daily life. They termed such celebrations cakes and ale, and there were few occasions that failed to call for a round of drinks to make the event more festive and enjoyable. Beer, wine, and later distilled spirits such as brandy, gin, and whiskey became an established part of the way people commemorated special events in their lives, such as marriage or childbirth. Alcoholic beverages were also present when people celebrated the successful conclusion of business deals, honored special dates in their nation’s history, or simply added to the enjoyment they Read more […]

Gin Fever

During the 1700s the drinking preference of hundreds of thousands of English people suddenly and dramatically changed from beer and ale to gin, a generic name at the time for gin, brandy, rum and other distilled spirits, which had much higher percentages of alcohol. Distilled spirits had been available in Europe since the Middle Ages, but up until the sixteenth century they had been expensive and were taken mainly for medical reasons. The popularity of these liquors soared among the poor when new manufacturing methods enabled distillers to produce them more cheaply than beer or ale. In Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants, Wolfgang Schivelbusch explains that the large-scale switch to drinking distilled spirits was disastrous: Liquor dealt a death blow to traditional drinking, which had been based on wine and beer. Whereas beer and wine are drunk slowly in long sips, and the inebriation process is gradual, liquor is tossed off and intoxication is more or less instantaneous. Liquor thus represents a process of acceleration of intoxication. Gin struck the typically beer-drinking English populace like a thunderbolt. Traditional drinking patterns could not cope with this highly Read more […]