Alcohol: Composition, Therapeutic use, Treatment. Alcohol Effects. Reactions with other drugs.

Last modified: Wednesday, 24. December 2008 - 3:50 am

Official names: Ethyl alcohol, ethanol, grain alcohol

Street names: Booze, hooch, juice, sauce, spirits

Drug classifications: Not classified, depressant


Alcohol: Key terms

ALCOHOLISM: A disease that results in chronic alcohol abuse. Alcoholism can cause early death from complications to the brain, liver, and heart.

DETOX: An abbreviation for detoxification, it refers to ridding the body of the toxic effects of regular, excessive alcohol consumption. During detox, alcoholics often experience severe withdrawal symptoms including acute cravings for alcohol, delirium tremens, and convulsions.

DISTILLATION: A heat-dependent process used to produce alcoholic beverages, such as whiskey, rum, and vodka. In this process, a fermented mash (of grains, vegetables, or fruits) is heated in a boiler, causing the alcohol to evaporate. The alcohol vapors are then collected and cooled in a condenser to produce the beverage.

DUI: Driving under the influence of alcohol.

ETHYL ALCOHOL: C2H5OH; also called grain alcohol or ethanol. This is the only type of alcohol that is safe to drink. Other alcohols like methyl alcohol and isopropyl alcohol are highly toxic and poisonous.

FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME: A pattern of birth defects, and learning and behavioral problems affecting individuals whose mothers consumed alcohol during pregnancy.

PROOF: A measure of the strength of an alcoholic beverage. The proof of an alcoholic beverage is twice the amount of its alcohol content. For example, 100 proof whiskey is 50% alcohol.


Alcohol: Overview

Jugs that held beer and wine have been found dating back to 3500 B.C. It was easy enough for prehistoric peoples to make alcohol. Mixtures of water and berries left alone in the sun turned into alcohol. Alcohol had its medicinal qualities as well. It was used as a disinfectant, to stimulate the flow of milk in nursing mothers, and to remedy a variety of illnesses.

By the Middle Ages, the upper classes consumed alcohol in abundance, while the peasant population made beer at home. In Italy and France, wine became an important product in commercial markets and continued to be an integral part of the European economy throughout the Renaissance period. Home brewing was largely replaced by the commercial manufacture of beer and wine in Europe by the early eighteenth century.

The first distillery in the United States opened in New York in 1640. Mass production, international trade, and expanding commercialism facilitated an increase in alcohol use into the twentieth century and brought with it concern over alcohol abuse.

In the United States there have been historical increases and decreases in alcohol use. There were high periods of alcohol consumption during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Low periods occurred during Prohibition and the Depression. Alcohol consumption rose in the 1980s, when many states in the United States lowered the drinking age to 18. Because of the number of teen deaths due to drinking and driving, the legal age of drinking was raised to 21 in 1987. Coincidentally, the rate of alcohol consumption decreased in the 1990s, but alcohol remains the most commonly used legal drug, and consumption of alcohol by young people is very high.

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