Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, although in smaller amounts it may appear to have a mild stimulant effect. The main psychoactive ingredient in alcoholic beverages is ethyl alcohol, produced through the fermentation of sugar by yeast. Alcoholic drinks vary in strength

what is alcohol

Alcohol is created when grains, fruits, or vegetables are fermented. Fermentation is a process that uses yeast or bacteria to change the sugars in the food into alcohol. Fermentation is used to produce many necessary items — everything from cheese to medications. Alcohol has different forms and can be used as a cleaner, an antiseptic, or a sedative.  So if alcohol is a natural product, why do teens need to be concerned about drinking it? When people drink the drug, it’s absorbed into their bloodstream. From there, it affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), which controls virtually all body functions

How is it made?

Alcohol, also known as ethanol, is made through a process called fermentation. During fermentation, yeast breaks sugar down into ethanol and carbon dioxide. This process is done without any air present, and once complete, the carbon dioxide gas bubbles out into the air leaving ethanol and water behind. Distilled spirits, such as vodka, rum, gin, and whiskey, are fermented and then distilled to separate the ethanol from the water.

Various sources of sugar are used in these processes resulting in different forms of alcohol. The sugar from crushed grapes is used to make wine; malted barley is used to make beer; sugar cane or molasses makes rum; grain, potatoes, beets, molasses, and a variety of other plants are used to make vodka.

The technique used to make the beverage will determine the alcohol content. You will see the percentage of alcohol per volume listed on the bottle, as well as the proof of the drink. The proof of a beverage is twice the alcohol content, so a drink with 12% alcohol per volume is 24 proof. Generally, a 12-ounce glass of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, and a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor all contain a ½ ounce of pure alcohol and are considered.

Alcohol content

Fermented drinks, such as beer and wine, contain from 2% to 20%. Distilled drinks, or liquor, contain from 40% to 50% or more. The usual content for each is:

  • Beer 2–6%
  • Cider 4–8%
  • Wine 8–20%
  • Tequila 40%
  • Rum 40% or more
  • Brandy 40% or more
  • Gin 40–47%
  • Whiskey 40–50%
  • Vodka 40–50%
  • Liqueurs 15–60%

What Is An Alcoholic?

An alcoholic is a person who suffers from alcoholism – the body is dependent on the drog. An alcoholic is addicted to alcohol. Alcoholism is a chronic (long-term) disease. People who suffer from alcoholism are obsessed with alcohol and cannot control how much they consume, even if it is causing serious problems at home, work and financially. Alcohol abuse generally refers to people who do not display the characteristics of alcoholism but still have a problem with it – these people are not as dependent on alcohol as an alcoholic is; they have not yet completely lost their control over its consumption.

Consuming moderate quantities of alcohol will not usually cause any physical or psychological harm. Unfortunately, for some people social drinking eventually leads to heavier drinking, which can cause devastating health and psychological problems.

The effects of the drug vary depending on a number of factors including:

  • type and quantity of alcohol consumed
  • age, weight and gender
  • body chemistry
  • food in the stomach
  • drinking experience
  • situation in which drinking occurs

the effects of alcohol Short term effects of alcohol

When a person drinks alcohol, it is absorbed by the stomach, enters the bloodstream, and goes to all the tissues. The disinhibiting effect of alcohol is one of the main reasons it is used in so many social situations. Other effects of moderate alcohol intake include dizziness and talkativeness; the immediate effects of a larger amount of alcohol include slurred speech, disturbed sleep, nausea, and vomiting. Alcohol, even at low doses, significantly impairs the judgment and coordination required to drive a car safely. Low to moderate doses of this drug can also increase the incidence of a variety of aggressive acts, including domestic violence and child abuse. Hangovers are another possible effect after large amounts of alcohol are consumed; a hangover consists of headache, nausea, thirst, dizziness, and fatigue.

Long term effects


Cirrhosis is probably the most widely recognized medical complication of chronic alcoholism. It is a grave and irreversible condition characterized by a progressive replacement of healthy liver tissue with scars, which can lead to liver failure and death.

Changes in physical appearance

Alcoholic drinks contain lots and lots of calories so weight gain among people who don’t drink sensibly is common. Alcohol affects the circulation by expanding blood vessels. This causes thread veins, often on the face, and purple, bulbous ‘drinkers nose’. Heavy drinkers usually don’t eat properly and too much alcohol stops the body absorbing the nutrients it needs. This leads to poor skin and brittle hair and nails.


Regular heavy drinkers are often overweight and, as with all overweight people, can go on to develop diabetes. Though manageable, people with diabetes don’t live as long and have to eat restricted diets and take medicines daily or inject themselves with insulin.


After smoking, drinking alcohol is the second biggest risk factor for cancers of the mouth and throat. Drinking and smoking together carries the highest risk of all. People who develop cirrhosis of the liver (often caused by too much drink) can develop liver cancer. Women who drink more than three drinks a day increase their risk of breast cancer.


Long-term heavy drinkers can develop this painful condition. The pancreas makes insulin and other substances needed to properly digest food. If left untreated, pancreatitis causes malnutrition and can lead to diabetes.

Other side effects:

  • heart damage
  • high blood pressure and stroke
  • liver damage
  • other digestive system disorders (e.g. stomach ulcers)
  • sexual impotence and reduced fertility
  • sleeping difficulties
  • brain damage with mood and personality changes
  • concentration and memory problems

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