Alcohol is one of the most widely used drugs in this society. It is accepted
as a part of social life. Its use is widely promoted via sponsorship of sporting
events. Advertising infers that drinking is the path to happiness, success,
romance, etc. There are references to alcohol and its effects from earliest known
writings. Alcohol is consumed in the beverage form and sold legally in this state
to persons over 21.
Alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the stomach and
small intestine. It is distributed by the blood throughout the body, affecting
literally every organ it touches in a matter of minutes. Enzymes in the liver
metabolize alcohol at a rate of 10-15 ml (less than one half ounce) per hour.
Hence, only time can sober someone up. Coffee, cold showers, or exercise do not
The warm glow of disinhibition, "letting go" is a major desired effect of
alcohol. People feel more sociable and talkative with small amounts of the drug.
Alcohol is a relaxant, so many people drink to unwind from the demands of life.
Because alcohol has been around for so long, its effects are well-known.
Two key concepts to understand in dealing with alcohol use and abuse are
impairment and tolerance. They are both problems in themselves and signals of
possible additional difficulties.
IMPAIRMENT refers to the deficits in performance, judgment, memory, and motor
skills which occur because of alcohol consumption. Impairment becomes noticeable at
blood levels of 0.05%, which can occur when as few as two drinks are consumed in an
hour by a 160 pound person. The deceptive part about impairment is that, by
definition, impaired judgment cannot recognize its own impairment. The individual
thinks he or she is functioning well, when actually s/he is not. Later, there is
impaired memory of the impaired performance.
TOLERANCE means that a drug loses some of its effect with repeated use, and
that higher and higher doses are needed. It is the body's way of adapting to having
a foreign substance in the system.
People develop a high tolerance to alcohol when they drink a great deal over
an extended length of time. "WHILE TOLERANCE MAY SEEM TO SOME TO BE A DESIRABLE
STATE, IT SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASES THE RISK OF ALCOHOLISM AND LONG-TERM HEALTH AND
SOCIAL PROBLEMS". For example, a heavy drinker could still be lucid at 0.25%,
whereas the average person would barely be able to function. Even so, the heavy
drinker would be extremely dangerous on the highway.
Thirteen percent of male and five percent of female college students
nationwide are alcoholic. Persons are considered alcoholic if they exhibit three or
more of the following symptoms for more than one month, or if the symptoms get
repeated over a longer period of time:
1.Alcohol is consumed in greater quantities or for longer periods of time
than the person intended; 2.The individual has a persistent desire to control or
eliminate drinking, or has made one or more unsuccessful efforts to do this (for
example, there are resolutions to "cut down," but these efforts disappear after a