In today’s society, alcohol is by far one of the most popular and purchased drug substances in the world. Everywhere you look there are advertisements, commercials, and people of almost all ages using this substance. Alcohol itself, is produced by the “anaerobic fermentation of sugars by yeast and involves glucose molecules being broken down to yield ethanol, carbon dioxide, and energy” (Foster, 2006 p.286). In general there are a variety of potable and non-potable forms of alcohol however; the only safe forms to drink are ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Among this, the most frequently used forms of this substance are found through beer, wine, and hard liquor. Each form of this substance has a different “strength” or percentage of alcohol which can lead to intoxication. The higher percentage or proof present in the substance, the greater amount of alcohol it contains. Dating back to the ancient times, the discovery of alcohol was found most likely from mistake. From recent discoveries, scientists have been able to date back alcohol presence to around 10,000 B.C. Over the course of time, alcoholic substances were modified from time to time and the use became very popular. Alcohol can now be found in almost all parts of the world and is used on a daily basis in most cultures.
Across the United States, alcohol use has become increasingly popular, mostly among adolescents into adulthood. According to data from the U.S. National Alcohol survey, “the prevalence of current alcohol drinking declined considerably from 1984 to 1990, but then increased slightly from 1990 to 1994” (Polednak, 2005 p.234). These rates have leveled off into the late 2000’s, however a large percentage of underage drinking is still occurring.
Taken from the National Survey of drug Use and Health, the figure above represents the percentage of college students aged 18 to 22 engaging in monthly alcohol activities. As shown, college students, both under and of legal age are at a much higher risk of alcohol misuse. Current estimates include that “15.6% of college students engage in heavy drinking and despite increasing intervention efforts, the rates of alcohol use among college students have remained consistent over the past decade” (Bina, 2013 p.2138). Underage drinking has become a severe problem in the United States as it can danger both the individual, and the others around. In regards to teenage drinking, “adolescent alcohol use is a major public concern and is strongly correlated with the development of alcohol abuse problems in adulthood” (Schindler, 2014 p.1622). Over the past decade, another severe factor among alcohol use has been cases of drunk driving.
Taken from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, the above table shows the percentage of people aged 16 and older who have partaken in drunk driving over the past year. The overall percentage has been slightly declining over the past decade; however this issue is still very extreme in the United States. Alcohol misuse is continuing to play a major role among all age groups in America, and we as a country continue to pay the consequences.
Alcohol has a depressant effect on the human body that when used has a different outcome from person to person. Depending how much the recipient drank, the weight, and the amount of time required to drink the substances can all affect the level of intoxication. Generally alcoholic substances are drank orally; however other dangerous routes of administration can occur. When used, alcoholic substances can have a great affect on the user’s brain often resulting in an altered state of mind. When administered, neuron membranes, ion channels, and cell receptors are all altered in the synapse. Because of this, alcohol use can leave a lasting effect on the adolescent’s brain. During this time, the brain is going through many changes and alcohol can damage both long and short term growth processes. It has also been found that “excessive consumption of alcohol has been linked to a broad range of cognitive deficits including impairments in executive functioning, learning, memory, and visiospatial capabilities” (Hayes, 2014 p.425). Along with this, alcohol use can also have a greater impact in the development of cancer and worldwide, “390,000 (3.6%) cancers and 230,000 (3.5%) cancer deaths were attributable to alcohol drinking in 2012” (Galeone, 2013 p.514).
Alcohol is a substance often used in celebration or parties; however, excessive drinking can often result in concern. Acute or “immediate” alcohol toxicity can often result in intoxication or alcohol poisoning, but chronic use has long term lasting effects. Things such as “liver cirrhosis, associated with oxidant stress, inflammation, and tissue fibrosis, is perhaps the best known consequence of chronic alcohol abuse, but the pancreas, stomach, heart, brain, and other organs may be affected as well” (Roman, 2013 p.312). In regards to chronic use, alcohol dependence is also another important feature of this substance. When abused, alcohol can be noted as one of the most harmful drugs and “alcoholism is a prevalent and debilitating disease that affects approximately 18 million people just in the United States” (Damaggio, 2014 p.312). The amount of alcohol one consumes can depend on things such as the environment setting or how much the person has consumed throughout their life. Overall, only approximately 10% of people who drink are alcoholics, however, “predictive alcohol abuse is great and includes family history, personality dimensions, social networks, educational achievement, religious beliefs, stress exposure, and alcohol availability levels” (Damaggio, 2014 p.312). Another major factor that can lead to alcohol abuse can be the social settings in which one drinks. Consuming alcohol among friend groups or in public settings can often result in a greater chance of intoxication, especially among young adults. Instances of peer pressure can result and another reason being that “the common belief that alcohol makes you cheerful is one of the main reasons for engaging in high-risk drinking, especially among young adults” (Tolstrup, 2013, p.826).
With all the harm and dangers alcohol can create amongst our society, it also has been proven to be beneficial as well. Having a glass of wine at night or a drink after a long day of work can often result in more good than evil. Recent studies have shown that “habitual light to moderate alcohol intake is associated with decreased risks for total mortality, coronary artery disease, diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure, and stroke” (O’Keefe, 2014 p.382). Depending on how the substance is used, alcohol could have the ability to increase your health on a daily basis.
The overall health assessment of alcohol proves that it is one of the most dangerous substances in the world. This drug is available all throughout the world and is one of the leading causes of deaths year in and year out. Consistently used by both legal and underage adolescents, alcohol has proven to be very popular and available to almost anyone who wants it. Although there are health benefits that could potentially result, the cons definitely outweigh the pros. Prohibition once occurred in this country and with the recent tragedies inflicted from alcohol, it has many thinking what life would be like without it.
As a current college student attending a University, my experiences with alcohol are no greater than any other person my age. Generally I only consume alcohol on the weekends with my friends and occasionally on a weeknight. I’ve had incidents where I’ve consumed more alcohol than I should have but nothing to serious. Never has there been a situation where alcohol has been a problem in my life and hopefully I can keep it that way. This however hasn’t been the case for a few of my distant family members. Over the last few years there have been two different cases of alcoholism among my family members. My Uncle Matt and Steve both became alcoholics after having family issues and fortunately nothing more serious has resulted from this. It wasn’t until seeing the struggles present between my two Uncles that I was truly able to see how dangerous alcohol can be.
Throughout the country there have been millions of cases of alcoholism yearly and over 10% of users are addicts. Typically when one becomes an alcoholic, many signs become evident among family members, friends, and co-workers. These symptoms include things such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, and irritability. In regards to prevention programs, there are numerous support lines available throughout the country and also many other treatment programs. Nationwide services such as Intervention Services, Inc. have professionals working 24-7 who are trained to deal with all problems of abuse. In most cases, the recommended action to follow when a loved one is dealing with alcoholism is to pursue through an intervention process. When this occurs, the member dealing with problems is given support and love from others as they try to prevent continuing abuse. Interventions usually consist of numerous steps that the patient will complete over a certain period of time with the ultimate goal leading to abstinence. After the intervention process is complete, the main changes that result are dependent upon the patient. A major fear present is the likelihood of a relapse in which the patient once again falls back to alcohol. In cases like this, it is very important to respond with immediate and professional help.
Below is a list of several online websites and organizations that are responsible for treatment programs and hotlines.
Alcohol may be seen as an enjoyable substance used at parties and gatherings, but reality it can be much more. Alcohol has been the blame for millions of deaths across the world leading many to debate why it’s still legal. When used improperly, alcohol can be a very dangerous product that can harm your life greatly.
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Damaggio, A. The Circadian Timing System in Ethanol Consumption and Dependence..Behavioral Neuroscience, 128, 371-386. Retrieved June 14, 2014, from the Ebsco database.
Foster, R., & Marriot, H. Alcohol consumption in the new millennium weighing up the risks and benefits for our health- . Nutrition Bulletin, 31, 286-331. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from the Ebsco database.
Galeone, C. A meta-analysis of alcohol consumption and the risk of brain tumors. Annals of Oncology, 24, 514-523. Retrieved June 14, 2014, from the Ebsco database.4, from the Ebsco database.
Hayes, D. Determining the threshold for alcohol- induced brain damage: new evidence with gliosis markers. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 37, 425-434. Retrieved June 14, 2014 from Ebsco database
O’Keefe, J. Alcohol and Cardiovascular Health: The Dose Makes the Poison… or the Remedy.. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 89, 382-393. Retrieved June 14, 2014, from the Ebsco database.
Polednak, A. Recent trends in incidence rates for selected alcohol-related cancers in the united states. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 40, 234-238. Retrieved June 7, 2014, from the Ebsco database.
Roman, J. Chronic Alcohol Ingestion and Predisposition to Lung “Cirrhosis”. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 38, 312-315. Retrieved June 14, 2014, from the Ebsco database.
Schindler, A., & Sutsui, k. Chronic alcohol intake during adolescence, but not adulthood, promotes persistent deficits in risk-based decision making. Alcoholism: clinical and experimental research, 38, 1622-1629. Retrieved June 7, 2014, from the Ebsco database.
Tolstrup, J. S. The Association Between Blood Alcohol Content and Cheerfulness, Focus Distraction, and Sluggishness Among Young Adults Attending High School Parties.Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 38, 826-833. Retrieved June 14, 2014, from the Ebsco database.