Alcohol is produced when yeast breaks down natural sugars, such as those found in fruit or grain, turning them to carbon dioxide and ethanol. Ethanol is the alcohol that is found in beer, wine, and spirits, and is a psychoactive drug that alters perception, mood, and behavior. It is also a toxin that at high dosages can be deadly.
Most people drink because they enjoy the early stages of intoxication, when they’re starting to feel a little tipsy, or catching a buzz. At this point moods lift, inhibitions lower, tongues loosen up, laughter is unshackled, and sociability flows. After two or three drinks, the world may take on a golden glow, the future may look a whole lot brighter, and confidence and optimism may surge. It is this beautiful state that all drinkers set out to reach and many arrive at, usually not for long. The euphoria from drinking passes quickly.
The three main types of alcoholic beverages are beer, wine, and liquor. Beer is the third most popular drink in the world, right behind coffee and tea. It is brewed from grains, with hops often added to give flavor and act as a preservative. The alcohol content is usually about 5%. Alcohol content means the amount of pure alcohol found in a drink. Most of beer is water.
Wine is fermented from fruit, usually grapes, and the alcohol content is between 5 and 20%.
Liquor, or spirits, are produced by distillation, a process in which the liquid is purified to increase its alcohol content. The average alcohol content is about 40%, although it can range much higher. At 100%, only eight ounces of it can be lethal. Common spirits are whiskey, tequila, rum, gin, vodka, and brandy.
The problem with drinking alcohol, as mentioned, is that the good times can be really good, but they rarely last long.
Blood alcohol content, or BAC, means the percentage of alcohol in a person’s blood stream. A BAC of .10% means there is one part alcohol for every thousand parts of blood. In most of the United States it is illegal to drive with a BAC that is over .08%, and this can be reached after just a few drinks.
By .10% BAC, most of the positive effects of drinking, the euphoria and sociability, have already been experienced, and it is often downhill from there. Further drinking can result in slurred speech, mood swings, and nausea. Continuing to drink beyond a .40% BAC can lead to loss of consciousness, central nervous system depression, coma, and beyond that, death.
Most people who drink have experienced a hangover or two in their life. The term hangover may have come down from Victorian England, where for two pennies homeless people were allowed to cram into one room and literally hang over a rope. It is now taken to mean something that remains, or is leftover.
What remains, when it comes to the overconsumption of alcohol, is often an insufferable illness of mind and body that can take a whole day to recover from. The symptoms of a hangover include headache, nausea, fatigue, sweating, confusion, anxiety, irritability, and major gastrointestinal issues.
Those who’ve experienced a bad hangover, may think twice about drinking so much the next time, but for some drinkers the hangover is a way of life, as reliable as the sun rising and the sun setting. A hangover may be just one of a chronic alcoholics’ many troubles, but because of a weakness that separates them from the normal social drinker, they continue to drink, no matter how dire the circumstances become. For an alcoholic, the drinking always goes on, long after the party is over.