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What effects does alcohol have on health?

   Alcohol is the intoxicating ingredient that is present in wine, beer, and spirits. It is a depressant, which means that when it reaches the brain, it slows down the body's systems.
It can also be difficult for the body to process, putting extra pressure on the liver, the digestive system, the cardiovascular system, and other functions.
Alcohol is a legal recreational substance for adults and one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States. People consume alcohol to socialize, to relax, and to celebrate.
It is commonly misused among individuals of all ages, resulting in significant health, legal, and socio-economic damage.
In 2017, around half of all Americans aged over 18 years had consumed alcohol in the last month. Just over 9 percent of those aged 12 to 17 years had done so.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 15.1 million people aged 18 years and over in the U.S. had alcohol use disorder (AUD), or 6.2 percent of this age group.
Short-term effects
Within minutes of consuming alcohol, it is absorbed into the bloodstream by blood vessels in the stomach lining and small intestine.
It then travels to the brain, where it quickly produces its effects.
The short-term effects of alcohol depend on:
" how much is consumed
" how quickly
" the weight, sex, and body fat percentage of the individual
" whether or not they have eaten
Drinking with a meal slows the rate of absorption, resulting in fewer side effects and less intoxication.
Signs of intoxication
At first, the person may feel relaxed, uninhibited, or giddy. As they consume more alcohol, intoxication may result.
Other signs of intoxication include:
" slurred speech
" clumsiness and unsteady gait
" drowsiness
" vomiting
" headache
" distortion of senses and perception
" loss of consciousness
" lapses in memory
How much alcohol?
One drink is the equivalent of:
" 12 ounces of beer that is around 5 percent alcohol, depending on the type
" 5 ounces of wine that is around 12 percent alcohol
" 1.5-ounces of spirits, or a "shot," at about 40 percent alcohol
" 8 ounces of malt liquor, at around 7 percent alcohol
In other words, these servings all contain the same amount of alcohol: 0.6 ounces.
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. It is expressed as the weight of ethanol in grams per 100 milliliter (ml) of blood.
The University of West Virginia suggests that a person may experience the following, depending on individual factors:
The body absorbs alcohol relatively quickly, but it takes longer to get the alcohol out of the body. The liver needs about 1 hour to process one drink. Consuming several drinks in a short time causes the alcohol builds up in the body. This puts the body's systems under pressure. It can lead to illness and, in severe cases, death. It also increases the risk of blackouts, especially on an empty stomach.

During this time, a person may do things that they do not remember later.
Binge drinking is defined as drinking within 2 hours:
" Five or more drinks for a man
" Four or more drinks for a woman
This is because women and men metabolize alcohol differently.
Intoxication impairs judgment and can result in inappropriate and illegal behaviors such as sexual promiscuity, disorderly conduct, driving while intoxicated and acts of violence.
In 2014, 31 percent of all driving fatalities in the U.S. were alcohol-related.
Alcohol toxicity
When the amount of alcohol in the blood exceeds a certain level, this can lead to alcohol toxicity, or poisoning. This is a dangerous condition.
Since alcohol is a depressant, it can slow the breathing, leading to a lack of oxygen to the brain.

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