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Substance Abuse - Alcohol

Commonly Known As: Beer, wine, liquor, booze, brew, brewskis, coolers. There are thousands of slang words for alcohol and alcoholic beverages. The principle categories of alcoholic beverages are beer, wine, and distilled spirits.

Would you recognize the signs of Alcohol Poisoning?

Facts about Alcohol Poisoning
Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning from the Mayo Clinic


In the news: hitting very close to home...

In the Pasadena Weekly on 09.02.2010 a local SPHS teen dies of alcohol poisoning. Would immunizing teens from prosecution encourage underage drinkers to call for help?

Access to Drug: Alcohol is a legal substance and can easily be brought commercially. Beer and wine is also made at home. It is kept in homes, served at restaurants, bars, and parties and accompanies just about any social event. It is regulated by law and only people over the age of 21 are allowed to purchase alcohol. Arrests can be made for possession by a minor, under the influence, sales to a minor, driving under the influence, public intoxication, illegal sales without a license, serving to a minor, and numerous other offenses. The same laws apply to boating and watercraft vehicles.

Scientific Name: ethyl alcohol, C2H6O. It is fermented from barley/hopps, fruit and grapes, or grain. It is a central nervous system depressant.

Interesting Facts: Except for some Muslim countries, the use of alcohol has been documented in civilized societies throughout history as far back as 8000 B.C. The prohibition of alcohol has also accompanied its use through time including The Chinese Canon of History in 650 B.C, where it was recognized that complete prohibition was impossible because "men loved their beer so much." The thirteen year prohibition in the United States starting in 1919 was also unsuccessful and ended due to pressure from the Wet Party and others who wanted to drink. Beer was also used in Colonial Times as a replacement for contaminated water supplies. In many points through history distilled spirits, beer, and wine have been touted with medicinal benefits. The most successful treatment for alcoholism to date has been Alcoholics Anonymous, which sprang up in the 1930's and continues to grow with the increasing awareness of the damaging effects of alcoholism on people and society as a whole.

Methods of Use: Consumed orally as a drink, either straight or mixed with water, soda, juice, and a wide variety of other concoctions. Alcohol has a distinct odor which can be smelled on the breath and through sweat glads. Attempts to disguise the smell of consumed alcohol are usually futile, despite the myth that vodka does not have an odor. Alcohol is also widely abused with other drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and prescription medications.

Common Effects When Intoxicated: The effects vary, depending on the amount of alcohol used, body weight, and food consumption. Low to moderate use can lead to skin flushing, heightened excitement and stimulation, relaxation, impaired thought processes, motor coordination, and judgement, and emotional volatility. As consumption increases, coordination decreases, speech slurs, there is frequent urination due to the diuretic effects, dizziness and confusion, black outs, passing out, and in some instances, coma or even death. Behavior can become aggressive/violent or maudlin and depressed.

Duration of Intoxication: The onset of the effects of one drink of alcohol is about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on stomach content. The effects can be felt for 30 to 90 minutes, with another 45 to 60 minutes to calm down and an after-effect of about 1 to 2 hours including sleepiness, agitation, anxiety, headache, thirst, and hunger. Because alcohol is secreted through the liver and urine, it does not stay in the body for a long period of time.

Withdrawal: The intensity of the withdrawal depends on the amount of alcohol consumed. With low to moderate doses, the user will feel a slight headache, thirst, some flu-like symptoms, and lethargy. The more alcohol consumed, the more intense the hangover. Frequent abusers of alcohol will experience tremors, cravings, stomach problems, vomiting, continued impairment of judgement, thought processes, and anxiety. They will have difficulty regulating body temperature and adjusting eyes to light.

Effects of Long Term Use:

Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction: Alcohol is often abused because of its prevalence in social settings, peer pressure, the pressures of life and family, and its easy accessibility. Dependence can grow out of abuse when used too often to quell the anxieties of life and the body develops a physiological dependence. Addiction, or alcoholism, is known to affect about 10 to 12 million people and is caused by a combination of heredity, environment, and attitudes regarding drinking.

Associated Risks: Alcohol is a major factor in car accidents and traffic fatalities. There are a wide variety of diseases and traumas directly or indirectly related to alcohol that can cause death, including liver damage, brain damage, accidents, and suicide. It is estimated that alcohol is a factor in at least 40% of all violent crimes; 80% of the prison population admit to being under the influence of alcohol or alcohol/drugs at the time they committed a crime.

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