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What is Alcohol?

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We drink it, cook with it, and some have even smoked it, but what is alcohol? Simply put, alcohol, ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is an intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of yeast, starches, and sugars.

What is Alcohol Really?

Alcohol is a toxin and actually affects every single organ in the body. It is considered a central nervous system depressant that when ingested orally is quickly absorbed from the stomach and small intestines straight into the bloodstream. Alcohol is metabolized by enzymes within the liver. The liver, however, only metabolizes a small amount of alcohol at a time, leaving the excess alcohol to circulate throughout the body. The amount that a person consumes within a given period of time will determine the intensity of the effects alcohol has on the body. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quick consumption, also known as binge drinking, can cause serious health issues, even death. On the other hand, long term alcohol consumption may lead to chronic diseases such as alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis. Long-term alcohol consumption can even lead to different cancers, including liver, mouth, and esophagus. Risk of high blood pressure; and mental health disorders are greater with those who drink regularly.

What is Alcohol Dependence?

Many people have different perceptions of what heavy drinking really means when we ask, what is alcohol dependence? But the set standard states that for men, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 2 or more drinks per day. Since women metabolize alcohol differently than men, heavy drinking is considered consuming any more than 1 drink per day. Binge drinking is when the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level reaches 0.08% or more.  For men, this equates to approximately 5 or more drinks consumed within a 2 hour span.  For women, about 4 alcohol beverages within a 2 hour span, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

What Is Alcohol Abuse?

What is alcohol abuse vs. alcoholism? The difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse is dependency; what alcohol is or isn’t becomes irrelevant once that line is crossed. The alcoholic has the inability to “take it or leave it”. Alcohol abuse may result in harm to one’s health, relationships, school/work, mental disorders, and/or legal issues. If alcohol is abused long enough, there is a risk of developing a dependency. Dependency on alcohol, also described as alcohol addiction or alcoholism, is a chronic progressive disease that centers in the brain. The signs and symptoms may vary, but usually is defined by a strong craving or obsession for alcohol, continued use despite repeated physical, mental, or personal issues, and the inability to limit, control, or stop drinking for any amount of time.We hope you have gained a clearer understanding of what alcohol is and the difference between heavy drinking and alcoholism.

Want to know more? Check out our past blog post The Difference Between Heavy Drinking & Being an Alcoholic. For help with alcohol abuse or alcoholism, please call us now at 1-800-861-1768.


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