Alcohol is an organic compound and refers to the primary alcohol ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, which is the main component in any alcoholic beverage.
Alcohol, in its various forms, is used in the medicinal field as disinfectants, antiseptics and antidotes. When used for disinfection, it is generally applied to skin before any form of surgery, but it can also be used to disinfect skin for other purposes as well. When used as an antiseptic for disinfection, Alcohol is generally given in combination with iodine. Soaps based on ethanol are also becoming increasingly popular in restaurants, due to the fact that the compound is extremely volatile, and does not require drying. Alcohol based gels have also become extremely popular as hand sanitizers. Alcohol, at times, is also used as a preservative in the field of medicine and science, due to its ability to preserve specimens.
Alcohol can be administered by either oral dosage, or by injection into veins, as the doctor sees fit for the particular patient and his medical condition.
For many people, the facts about alcoholism are not clear. What is alcoholism, exactly? How does it differ from alcohol abuse? When should a person seek help for a problem related to his or her drinking? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has prepared this booklet to help individuals and families answer these and other common questions about alcohol problems. The following information explains both alcoholism and alcohol abuse, the symptoms of each, when and where to seek help, treatment choices, and additional helpful resources.
For most people who drink, alcohol is a pleasant accompaniment to social activities. Moderate alcohol use—up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women and older people—is not harmful for most adults. (A standard drink is one 12-ounce bottle or can of either beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.) Nonetheless, a large number of people get into serious trouble because of their drinking. Currently, nearly 14 million Americans—1 in every 13 adults—abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. Several million more adults engage in risky drinking that could lead to alcohol problems. These patterns include binge drinking and heavy drinking on a regular basis. In addition, 53 percent of men and women in the United States report that one or more of their close relatives have a drinking problem.
The consequences of alcohol misuse are serious—in many cases, life threatening. Heavy drinking can increase the risk for certain cancers, especially those of the liver, esophagus, throat, and larynx (voice box). Heavy drinking can also cause liver cirrhosis, immune system problems, brain damage, and harm to the fetus during pregnancy. In addition, drinking increases the risk of death from automobile crashes as well as recreational and on-the-job injuries. Furthermore, both homicides and suicides are more likely to be committed by persons who have been drinking. In purely economic terms, alcohol-related problems cost society approximately $185 billion per year. In human terms, the costs cannot be calculated.
Alcoholism, also known as “alcohol dependence,” is a disease that includes four symptoms:
Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink.
Loss of control: The inability to limit one’s drinking on any given occasion.
Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, occur when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.
Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control over drinking, or physical dependence. Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that results in one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period:
Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities
Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery
Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk
Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the drinking. Although alcohol abuse is basically different from alcoholism, many effects of alcohol abuse are also experienced by alcoholics.
If you are trying to quit alcohol, you should stick to beers and wines. True or False. Take this quiz to know now!
1. Heavy drinkers have smaller brain volumes
Answer - True
Studies have shown that drinking too much alcohol can lead to the death of brain cells in certain parts of the brain such as the parietal lobe. It also causes electrical dysfunction in the brain by disturbing the brain's neurotransmitters.
2. Which of the following is an effect of alcohol withdrawal??
Answer - All of the above
Alcoholism is a serious medical condition that requires proper diagnosis and therapy. The withdrawal symptoms of suddenly quitting alcohol include anxiety, cold sweats, a sick feeling in the stomach and delirium.
3. An alcoholic needs to hit rock bottom before being able to quit and recover
Answer - False
Alcoholism has various degrees and not every alcoholic hits rock bottom before recovering. In any case, "rock bottom" is a subjective concept and does not mean the same thing for every individual. If you want to quit drinking, you should begin right away and not wait till you reach a low point in your life.
4. If you are trying to quit alcohol, you should stick to beers and wines
Answer - False
It is a common myth that beer and wine drinkers cannot be alcoholics. The truth is that these drinks may contain high percentages of alcohol which can effectively sustain an alcohol addiction even if one entirely avoids hard liquor.
5. Which of the following is the most effective way to avoid alcoholism?
Answer - Not drinking above the legal limit
Alcoholism only occurs when one overindulges in alcohol and binge drinks. Those who are trying to quit drinking or avoid alcoholism should refrain from consuming liquor in excess of the permissible limits for drinking at all times.
If there’s one thing that most people understand about the liver it’s that it serves as the body’s liquor control board. When you have a glass of wine, beer or other liquor, the liver is in charge of processing this alcohol and detoxifying the blood.
Liver can only handle a certain amount of alcohol at any given time, so if you drink more than the liver can deal with by drinking too quickly, or drinking too much, your liver cells struggle to process it.
If you continue to drink excessively, either through binge drinking or by having multiple drinks on a daily basis, you’re making your liver work continuous overtime. The consequences of this abuse may be the destruction of liver cells, a build-up of fat deposits in your liver (fatty liver), or more seriously, liver inflammation (alcoholic hepatitis), permanent scarring (cirrhosis) or even liver cancer
When alcohol reaches the liver, it produces a toxic enzyme called acetaldehyde which can damage liver cells and cause permanent scarring, as well as harm to the brain and stomach lining. But that’s not all.
Your liver also requires water to do its job effectively. When alcohol enters the body it acts as a diuretic and as such dehydrates you and forces the liver to find water from other sources. The severe dehydration is part of the reason why, after a big night of drinking you can wake up nursing a whopping headache.
Regular and heavy drinking over time can strain or upset the way alcohol is metabolized within the body, which can lead to alcoholic liver disease.
So think twice before drinking!