Alcohol was used for centuries as a medicine in childbirth, sedation, and surgery.
Alcohol is unique because it requires no digestion. It can be absorbed directly from the stomach, and even more rapidly from the small intestine.
Some studies show that moderate drinkers (those drinking no more than one to two drinks a day) tend to be at less risk for heart attacks than abstainers or heavy drinkers. However, it's not recommended that you start drinking for health benefits.
Of the adult Americans who drink, approximately 15% abuse alcohol. The majority of people who drink do so in a responsible manner which does not lead to alcohol-related problems.
The 15% of drinkers who abuse alcohol account for far more than half of alcohol sales.
Alcohol does contain calories:
The blood alcohol concentration limit is 0.08% in some states. In Sweden it is 0.05%. Driving ability can be significantly impaired well below 0.10% BAC. For most people, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05% doubles their risk of having a car crash. A chart of BAC limits by US state is provided by the National Commission Against Drunk Driving.
Alcohol is a drug. It has been used by most societies and cultures throughout history. It is our most used and most abused recreational drug.
About half of fatal highway accidents are alcohol-related.
Eating before and while drinking slows down the passage of alcohol from the stomach to the small intestine. Because 80% of the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestine, having food in the stomach that absorbs some of the alcohol will help slow absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
Alcohol is metabolized by the liver at the rate of approximately one drink an hour. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor.
Although the estimates of women alcoholics vary from one quarter to one half of all alcoholics, it is clear that the number of female alcoholics is sizable and has been increasing. In the past, female alcoholics and problem drinkers may have been more reluctant to seek treatment than men who experience drinking problems, but fortunately that situation is beginning to change.
Alcohol is a depressant drug; this means it slows down (or depresses) the Central Nervous System. Some people mistakenly think it is a stimulant because initially it reduces inhibitions, encouraging some people to do things they might not do otherwise.
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Updated June 20, 1997