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Alcohol is produced by fermenting the starch or sugar in fruits and grains. Alcoholic drinks have different amounts of alcohol in them -- beer is about 5% alcohol, wine is usually 12 - 15% alcohol, and hard liquor is about 45% alcohol.
People have been drinking alcoholic beverages since prehistoric times. The discovery of the distillation process during the 12th century made it possible to make drinks with higher alcohol content (hard liquor) than may be achieved by fermentation alone.
About 20% of teens are "problem drinkers." This means that they get drunk, have accidents related to alcohol use, or get into trouble with the law, family members, friends, school, or dates due to alcohol.
Up to 7% of teens are considered alcoholic (dependent on alcohol). This means that they have withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop or reduce their drinking, and drink compulsively despite negative consequences.
A person's alcohol use is primarily influenced by attitudes developed during childhood and teen years. It is impacted by the parent's attitudes and behaviors toward drinking, peer influence, society, and family relationships.
There is likely a genetic (hereditary) predisposition to alcohol use-related disorders.
THE IMMEDIATE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL
Alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream quickly. The absorption rate depends on the amount and type of food in your stomach. For example, high carbohydrate and high fat foods lessen the absorption rates. A carbonated alcoholic drink, like champagne, will be absorbed faster.
The effects of alcohol may appear within 10 minutes and peak at approximately 40 to 60 minutes. Alcohol remains in the bloodstream until it is broken down by the liver. If a person consumes alcohol at a faster rate than it can be broken down by the liver, the blood alcohol concentration level rises.
Alcohol depresses your breathing rate, heart rate , and the control mechanisms in your brain. The effects include:
If a pregnant woman drinks, alcohol can adversely affect the developing fetus causing birth defects or fetal alcohol syndrome (a devastating disorder marked by mental retardation and behavioral problems).
Alcohol increases the risks of:
WHEN ABUSE BECOMES DEPENDENCE
Individuals who consume alcohol (or live with individuals who consume alcohol) may want to seek help for themselves or loved ones if the following occur in association with drinking behavior:
CALL YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER IF
Other resources include local Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-anon/alateen groups (see alcoholism - resouces ), public or private mental health agencies, school or work counselors, student or employee health centers, and local hospitals.
Update Date: 1/29/2004Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Newton, Ma., and Senior Medical Editor, A.D.A.M., Inc. Previously reviewed by Benoit Dubé, M.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (1/29/2002).
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT