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Alcohol is a drug, and can be addictive with continued use. Studies show that children who drink alcohol before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholic as adults.  Alcohol addiction treatment centers encounter many adolescents who need help for early-onset substance abuse.  Alcohol remains the No.1 drug of choice for all age groups, and is often combined with other drugs.

Alcohol is alcohol, whether it is a fancy Cosmopolitan or a tap beer. If you consume a “light” beer, does it make a difference? Not so much. Regular beers have a 5 percent alcohol content and some light beers have about a 4.2 percent alcohol content.

Standard drink sizes and content:
A “standard” drink contains 14 grams of alcohol.

If you order a glass of wine, it may not be a standard-sized drink; it may be larger.

  • 12 ounces of regular beer have about 5 percent alcohol
  • 8-9 ounces of malt liquor have about 7 percent alcohol
  • 5 ounces of table wine contain about 12 percent alcohol
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or “hard” liquor contain about 40 percent alcohol

Who should not drink alcohol:

  • Those in recovery from addiction
  • Pregnant women
  • Those taking medications with which alcohol could interfere
  • Anyone planning to drive a vehicle after having alcohol
  • Underage youth

High-functioning alcoholism:
Some people boast that they have a high capacity for alcohol. This is not a good thing, because tolerance typically rises with prolonged use, and someone who abuses alcohol may be a “high functioning” alcoholic before the inevitable physical and social consequences occur.

Alcohol affects every organ in the body. The most commonly known related disease is cirrhosis of the liver, but there are many adverse medical effects of alcohol abuse:

  • Heart problems
  • Stroke
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Certain cancers are directly related, such as esophageal, cancers of the mouth and throat, and breast cancer.
  • Liver cancer
  • Malnutrition
  • High blood pressure

Mental and emotional disorders can occur because of alcohol abuse:

  • Cognition problems
  • Moodiness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia or other sleep disorders
  • Uncontrolled anger

People abuse alcohol to self-medicate chronic pain, stress and other emotional problems and, over long-time misuse, more alcohol is needed for the same effects.

Older people, even those in good health, cannot physically process alcohol the same way younger bodies do, so the safe limits of drinking (for those other than people in recovery from alcoholism) are approximately:

  • 1 drink daily for women
  • 2 drinks daily for men

Binge drinking is epidemic on college campuses, and may result in violence such as fighting and date rape, and failure at school.

Women process alcohol differently than men:

  • Women have less body water content, and become inebriated with less alcohol, with more severe effects, than men.
  • Women get addicted faster to alcohol and have a higher percentage of physical and medical problems with alcohol use.
  • Both genders are undertreated for alcoholism, even though a higher percentage of men are alcoholics.

When you can’t stop:
Hangovers can be unpleasant, but this is not necessarily a learning experience for drinkers because alcohol dependency is a chronic disease. Treatment and support are needed when alcohol misuse turns to abuse and addiction.