Feb 8

Drug Fact Sheet: Alcohol


Alcoholic beverages have existed almost as long as human civilization. Ancient Egypt, China, Greece and India all have alcoholic drinks dating back thousands of years. Just like today, they used fermented grain, fruit juice, or honey to make ethyl alcohol/ethanol. Over the centuries alcoholic beverages have ranged from being very mild to very strong. In the 18th century the British government encouraged the production of spirits and unwittingly created a widespread alcoholism problem. By the 19th century drunkenness had become unseemly and there was a lot of public illwill towards alcohol. Prohibition was instituted in many countries in the early 20th century and was largely ineffective. Now, each country in the world has its own laws and regulations around alcohol consumption. Some have low age requirements like Germany where the legal drinking age is 16. Others are completely dry countries due to religious observance like Saudi Arabia.


Mild consumption of alcohol is not necessarily bad, however it is not without its effects on the body. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This is noticeable when people under the influence of alcohol are slow to react, have slurred speech, or have troubles walking in a straight line. Short term negative impacts are dehydration, impaired judgement, and even blacking out. Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to many serious health problems. Alcohol is processed in the liver, and overconsumption means placing the liver under stress. Long term alcohol use can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and eventual liver failure. Alcohol also damages many other areas of the body including the pancreas and digestive system.


Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug in the USA and Canada. It is hardly surprisingly considering almost every adult social (and often work) gathering will be held at a place that serves alcohol. In the USA up to 40% of patients in large urban hospitals are there with illnesses that have been caused or exacerbated by drinking alcohol. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the USA states that “alcohol problems can yield to scientifically-based medical and psychosocial intervention in the same way as other health conditions are responsive to prevention and treatment”. There are many approaches to treatment, and it often comes down to what the individual responds to best. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol, please use our directory to find the nearest resources.


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