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Alcoholism 4

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Alcoholism 4

"Alcohol is a socially acceptable, legal drug that is consumed by the majority of Americans without problems to themselves or others (Milgram xiii)." Misuse of alcohol can lead to alcoholism, one of the most widespread and complex problems in America. The reasons some people become dependent on alcohol and others do not are unknown. Many health problems are associated with chronic alcohol abuse, including damage to the liver, brain, or central nervous system.

Alcohol is probably the most widely used recreational drug in the world. The production of alcohol is the result of the fermentation of plant products such as fruit grains. Gin, Vodka, Whiskey, and other hard liquors, require a further process known as distillation. The active chemical ingredient in beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages is ethyl alcohol. Ethyl alcohol is a potentially addictive drug and a depressant of the central nervous system (Kestler 6).

Alcohol acts as a sedative and as an anesthetic, reducing nerve transmissions and impulses to the central nervous system. This depresses mental, motor, and vital functions such as pulse rate, respiration, and blood pressure (Kestler 6). The body can absorb alcohol very quickly, approximately 20% goes directly into the blood stream from the stomach, the rest enters the body through the small intestine. Moments after alcohol enters the blood stream it reaches the Cerebral Cortex, the part of the brain responsible for judgement. The areas of the brain controlling caution and self control are effected first, so most people feel more relaxed. Extremely large doses of alcohol may result in coma or death (Knox 42).

Intoxication varies greatly from one person to the next depending on his/her blood alcohol level. The speed of consumption can cause the blood alcohol level to rise. Other factors including body weight, emotional state, tolerance to alcohol, amount of time over which drinking takes place, and the amount of food in the stomach can also influence the blood alcohol level (Kestler 7).

In a one-hundred and sixty pound person, alcohol is burned at the rate of one drink every two hours. The more rapidly alcohol is ingested, the faster the peak blood alcohol level will be reached. When a person drinks faster than the alcohol can be burned, the drug accumulates in the body, resulting in higher levels of alcohol in the blood. The more body muscle a person has in relation to fat, the lower the blood alcohol concentration will be from a given amount of liquor (Taylor 23).

A persons tolerance has developed if the drinker requires more alcohol to get the same effects he/she used to get with a lesser amount. If a person is alcohol tolerant he/she can "hold" or "handle," or "not show" the amount of alcohol consumed (Long 57-58). If a person has a high tolerance, the initially pleasant "buzz" or "glow" may wear off quickly leading them to drink more to recapture it (Kestler 7-8).

A can of beer can raise a drinkers blood alcohol level just as much as a glass of wine or a cocktail with half an ounce of hard liquor. An ounce of beer does not contain as much alcohol as an ounce of whiskey but beer is usually consumed in greater proportions than other beverages. Wine contains between 12 and 15% alcohol and beers range from about 3 to 8%. The percentage of alcohol in other types of liquor is indicated in proof, which is twice the percent of alcohol by volume. For example one hundred proof Vodka contains fifty percent alcohol (Kestler 6).

Admittedly, there is no single cause for alcoholism, however, the most widely believed cause is the use of alcohol to solve problems. Alcoholism is thought to arise from a combination of a wide range of physiological, psychological, and genetic factors. It is characterized as an emotional and often physical dependence on alcohol (Milgram 85). A sudden stop in the chronic abuse of alcohol may cause a withdrawal syndrome which can include Delirium Tremors, seizures, hallucinations, and acute anxiety (Kestler 9). Around 10% of adult drinkers in the United States have experienced drinking problems or are considered alcoholics. More males than females are affected, but drinking among the youth and among women is increasing (Knox 75).

Alcoholism develops from several factors, including hereditary predisposition, home environment, and learned behavior. Children of alcoholics are more likely to become an alcoholic than a child born to a non-alcoholic. Although the disease clearly has a family pattern experts disagree ...

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