What is alcohol?
Beverage alcohol is ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, and is a depressant drug. Alcohol is a natural product of fermenting sugars. It is usually made from grains such as hops, barley or rice and/or fruits, but it can also be made from other plants. The concentration of alcohol in drinks varies widely. Wine and beer have between 5% and 15%, while ‘hard’ liquor usually has up to 40%, and sometimes more.
Low to moderate amounts can produce feelings of relaxation, lower inhibitions, and increased sociability. Larger amounts can cause dizziness, nausea, slurred speech, slower reflexes, sleepiness, bad judgment, dehydration and a hangover the next day. Overdoses can cause loss of motor control, black-outs, temporary coma (passing out), and in extreme cases, death.
Alcohol is highly addictive and tolerance develops quickly with severe withdrawal symptoms including nervousness, tremors, seizures and hallucinations.
Long-term use of alcohol can damage the liver, brain and other organs, and can result in severe mental and physical problems. Consuming too much alcohol at once can cause death through acute alcohol toxicity. Alcohol impairs vision and motor coordination. Driving while intoxicated is illegal and endangers yourself and others. Mixing alcohol with over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, or illegal drugs is dangerous and can lead to medical emergencies. Additionally, alcohol can lower inhibitions, which in turn may lead to high-risk sexual activities.
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