Adapted from Engs, R.C. Alcohol and Other Drugs: Self Responsibility, Tichenor Publishing Company, Bloomington, IN, 1987. (c) Copyright Ruth C. Engs, Bloomington, IN, 1996.

Back to copyright page / List of publications / Home page


Alcohol is a classic depressant of the central nervous system. In small amounts, alcohol can cause an apparent stimulation in some people. This results from unrestrained activity on various parts of the brain that have been freed from inhibition as a result of the depression of inhibitory control mechanisms. Alcohol exerts its first depressant action upon the cortex and reticular activating system. As a result, various thought processes become jumbled, and smooth operation of movement becomes disrupted. Then finer grades of memory, concentration, and insight are dulled and lost as the blood alcohol concentration is increased.

Throughout history, most culture have used alcohol in one form or another. Alcoholic beverages were probably discovered accidentally when mixtures of crushed fruits or honey were left exposed in a warm atmosphere to airborne yeasts that converted the natural sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide by fermentation. The making of wines and beers has been reported from hundreds of preliterate societies, and these beverages were used for religious ceremonies, celebrations, and the treatment of illnesses.

The oldest known code of laws, that of Hammurabi of Babylon (in about 1770 B.C.), regulated drinking establishments, and Sumerian physicians prescribed beer in 2100 B.C. Egyptian doctors in about 1500 B.C. included beer and wine in some of their prescriptions. References to the drinking and the making of wine are found in abundance in the Old Testament of the Bible and in writings of other societies. Alcohol was used copiously in the Greek and Roman civilizations, by the gods in myth and legend as well as by the people of all classes. Wines fermented from rices were widely used by Oriental cultures, and the Arabs first distilled alcohol in about A.D. 500-. All of these cultures, however, gave warning of the harmful effects of excessive drinking.

In Europe, during the Middle Ages when the water supply was often polluted, beer and wine were commonly drunk in place of water. Although many church leaders denounced drunkenness, they seldom criticized the daily use of wine and beer, as they were considered a necessity for maintaining good health. This attitude was brought to North America by the early settlers, and the use of beer and wine was common among the Pilgrims. However, severe penalties were imposed for drunkenness. In New England the production of rum became an important business, and the trade of rum, molasses, and slaves flourished for many years in the colonies.

As the early American settlers pushed farther West, whiskey making became common as the pioneers found it easier to transport whiskey made from corn than bulky containers of wine and beer.

During the frontier days, a number of people became concerned about the heavy drinking of the pioneers and began to question the health-giving qualities of rum, gin, and whiskey. Church leaders began to plead for temperance, which meant moderate and responsible use of alcohol. But later these leaders urged people not to drink at all and started lobbying for laws against drinking, as they felt that alcohol caused too many social problems. Among the most militant of the temperance groups was the Women's Christian Temperance Union, which was part of the second social reform or clean living movement. They launched an intensive educational program and began to support or reject candidates for election based on their attitudes on drinking. In 1919 the movement gained enough momentum to cause the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, which forbade the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages in the United States.

This law produced great social problems, as many individuals, particularly Italian and German immigrants, believed that it took away their individual freedoms. These immigrants also saw nothing morally wrong with their traditional use of beer and wine and decided that if they could not buy these beverages legally, they would make them themselves or obtain them illegally. Bootlegging became a profitable business, and underworld gangs fought and killed each other to gain control of various territories to sell bootleg liquor. At the same time, the price of alcohol went up and the purity of distilled beverages went down. In the early 1930s, the flaunting of the law by many otherwise law-abiding citizens and the halfhearted program of enforcement of prohibition laws sparked the movement for and eventual repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. Prohibition of substances that are part of a culture rarely works.

During the later 1970s and early 1980s, a mass movement - on a national level in the United States - to increase the legal drinking age to 21 years of age began to gain momentum as a preventive measure for drunk driving accidents. In 1985, Congress passed a law that would ban federal highway funds to states that permit drinking by persons under 21 by 1987. Most states have increased their drinking ages (some after initially, in the 1970s, decreasing them), as there appeared to be some evidence of increased alcohol-related automobile accidents among teenage youth when the drinking ages had been reduced. Although per capita consumption has decreased since 1980, problems related to alcohol consumption have risen with the exception of drinking and driving behavior.

Alcohol beverages are now consumed by about 70 percent of all American adults and by about 80 percent of all college students. On a per capita basis, Americans consume about 8.7 liters of ethanol per year. Canadians consume a slightly higher among - approximately 10.8 liters per person per year - while 73 percent of Canadians over 18 years of age drink occasionally. In other English-speaking countries over 90 percent of university-age students drink.

About 30 percent of North Americans do not drink because of religious convictions, illness, the adverse effects of alcohol, because they are recovering alcoholics, or because they do not like the taste. In some communities there is still controversy as to the "morality" of drinking. However, for the most part, North Americans are alcohol users, and alcohol is our most frequently used mind-altering drug, with the exception of caffeine.


Alcohol (ethanol) in beverages basically comes in three forms: wines, beers, and distilled beverages. Wines are made from fermenting the juices of a variety of fruits, honey, and some grains such as rice. Beers are made by fermenting more complex sugars such as grains, hops, corn, and potatoes after the starch has been broken down by such substances as malts. Distilled spirits such as gin and whiskey are made by distilling the alcohol from the wines and/or beers. Fortified wines such as sherry and port are wines in which some distilled alcohol has been added. Liqueurs (cordials) are made in a similar way, with the addition of sugar and spices to give them a thick and syrupy consistency.

Most beers in North America contain from 2 to 6 percent alcohol by volume; wines contain from 12 to 21 percent alcohol by volume; and distilled spirits contain 40 to 50 percent alcohol by volume. Proof is designed as twice the percentage of alcohol by volume. There is approximately the same amount of alcohol in the average twelve-ounce bottle of beer, five-ounce glass of wine, and shot of whiskey - a little less than three quarters of an ounce of ethanol. In the process of fermentation and distillation, small amounts of substances such as ketones, aldehydes, and acids are formed. These chemicals are called congeners, and their presence causes the characteristic taste and odor of a particular distilled beverage.

Alcohol is sometimes considered a food, and each gram of pure alcohol contains seven calories. However, these are often called "empty calories," as they contain no other nutrients. A half ounce of alcohol contains about 100 calories, but the various sugars found in most drinks, especially beer and wine, give higher calories to each average-sized drink. A bottle of beer (twelve ounces) contains about 170 calories, two ounces of whiskey contain approximately 140 calories, and eight ounces of wine contain about 270 calories.

Cultural Use

Recreational. The drinking of alcoholic beverages is considered customary in many social situations today. About 85 percent of all North Americans who drink do so without any harmful effects to themselves, their families, or society. As in the past, drinking is done to celebrate social occasions such as parties with friends, births, weddings, and family get-togethers, and with meals. Alcohol beverages are used for political occasions such as state functions and the making of war or peace, and the use of alcohol is common during and after recreational activities such as bowling, skiing, and golf and while watching sports events. At present, beer is the most popular drink among both adults and university students, with distilled spirits coming in a close second, followed by wines.

Wines tend to be drunk with meals or in the form of sherry as a before-dinner drink and in the form of port as an after-dinner drink. Beer tends to be drunk at sports events and at out-of-door gatherings or when meeting friends at a corner tavern. Beer is also popular with pizza and other informal foods. Distilled spirits are popular at the cocktail hour, when visiting friends, before diner, and at adult parties. University students tend to drink beer more than any other alcoholic beverage on most occasions.

Medicinal. Alcohol in one form or another has long been used as a medicine. It was used in surgery, in childbirth, and as an anesthetic in ancient times. Whiskey was popular for curing colds and treating snake bites, although it helps neither of these conditions. Wine was thought to build up the blood, and brandy was used to relieve fainting. Any alcoholic beverage was used to treat sleeplessness and over excitement, and many spirits were used to clean wounds and were added to various cure-all tonics during the latter part of the nineteenth century. A drink was, and often still is, prescribed to stimulate sluggish appetites, as a sedative to induce sleep, as a vasodilator in arteriosclerosis, and to relieve the vague aches and pains that beset the elderly. Women used to drink to relieve premenstrual tension and cramping from menstruation. Many research reports have found a correlation between one or two drinks a day and decreased heart disease and increased longevity.

Alcohol today, with the exception of use for the elderly, is rarely prescribed. It is, however, found in many over-the-counter medicines, especially in sleep aids, mouthwashes, and cough syrups.

Religious. Perhaps one of the earliest uses for alcohol was in religious ceremonies. In Greco-Roman culture, the cults of Dionysus or Bacchus, the wine god, were the most popular. Red wine, symbolizing the blood of life, ultimately passed from these religious customs into Christianity. The records of Egyptian and other Middle Eastern civilizations show that drinking went from almost exclusive use for religious ritual to common practice for social occasions. The early Hebrews drank wine for various rites of passage such as circumcision, marriage, death, religious holidays, and the weekly Sabbath.

Other religious groups, however, developed abstinence beliefs as part of their religious practice. In Arabia the followers of Muhammad and in China the followers of Buddha forbade the consumption of all alcoholic beverages. Abstinence sects developed after the Reformation, and in the United States the religious temperance movement became popular at the beginning of the twentieth century.


Although most people drink alcoholic beverages in a mature and responsible manner, many use alcohol in an irresponsible manner, thereby causing problems for themselves, their friends, their families, and society.

Alcohol abuse or problem drinking is usually defined as acute intoxication or binge drinking that results in problems with family, friends, job, or the law. Problem drinking is similar to alcoholism, with the exception that the person abusing alcohol is often too physically dependent upon the substance. The rate of problem drinking also is apt to be higher in the 15-to-24-year-old age group. Alcohol abuse is often defined in relation to alcohol-related problems such as fighting, crime, and driving while intoxicated. Surveys find that the persons who are most likely to be problem drinkers are males under 25, white, city residents who have moved from rural areas, whose childhoods were disrupted by a broken home, who are Roman Catholic, and who are single or divorced. This profile is characteristic of many university students. Alcoholism, on the other hand, is usually defined as loss of control of drinking and is more often found in older groups. However, even among university age students, about one in tn who drink may be alcoholic.

Physical Effects of Excess Drinking and Irresponsible Alcohol Use

Hangovers. More than half of all college students have reported a hangover, and 70 percent have reported nausea and vomiting from drinking too much within the preceding 12 months. Hangovers, which are thought to result from an excessive intake of alcohol, are characterized by upset stomach, fatigue, thirst, headache, and sometimes trembling. The basis of hangovers is not clear, but they are thought to be related to congeners found in many alcoholic beverages. Fatigue and tension and stress while drinking may contribute to hangovers, and some people feel that hangovers might be caused by slight withdrawal symptoms. There is no safe way of curing a hangover. Sleep and perhaps aspirin will alleviate some of the discomfort of a hangover.

The Heart. Heart disease is the principal cause of death in this country, but alcohol is not a significant risk factor associated with coronary heart disease. It has been found that small amounts of alcohol - up to about two to three drinks per day for men and one to two for women may prevent heart disease. The incidence of coronary heart disease has been found to be lower in individuals who were light drinkers compared to those who abstained or who were former drinkers in many studies. On the other hand, there is a direct relationship between heavy drinking and cardiomyopathy - a disease of the heart muscle. This condition results in congenital heart failure and elevated diastolic blood pressure. Because heavy drinkers are often heavy smokers, it is thought that the higher incidence of heart disease in alcoholics and heavy drinkers is probably caused by smoking and not by the alcohol in itself.

The Central Nervous System. Alcohol works as a depressant on the central nervous system, depending upon the amount consumed. Chronic excessive drinking, along with these effects, can cause serious damage to the central nervous system. Wernicke's encephalopathy is the first serious manifestation of heavy chronic drinking. The person exhibits nystagmus (uncontrollable eye movement), jerky and unbalanced movement, and mental confusion. The next step in nervous system damage is Korsakoff's psychosis, in which there are defects in retentive memory, apathy, and inertia. Alcoholic polyneuropathy can occur, in which there is weakness and pain or numbness in the legs and arms. Alcoholic pellagra causes mental and nervous confusion, and diarrhea and skin eruptions can occur. Some of these diseases, however, may be caused by deficiency in B vitamins, as alcoholics often are malnourished.

The Liver. Cirrhosis of the liver is a major cause of incapacitating illness and premature death among alcoholics. However, an excessive intake of alcohol by itself is not sufficient to produce cirrhosis, and it is thought that poor nutritional states contribute to this condition. The most common effect in the liver after continued high alcohol intake is the development of fatty liver, in which lipids or fat accumulate in the liver. Deaths can occur suddenly from this problem, and it is considered an important cause of death in individuals age 25 to 44 who are heavy drinkers. After the onset of this condition, alcoholic hepatitis can occur. It involves an inflammatory reaction of the fatty liver and has a mortality rate of up to 30 percent. This condition usually occurs after a bout of heavy drinking causing an alteration in the structure of the liver. Continued drinking then leads to scarring cirrhosis, in which the liver is unable to detoxify alcohol and other toxic substances, and in which there might be a sudden hemorrhage. In some cases, poor nutrition is thought to contribute to general liver deterioration in chronic heavy drinkers. On the other hand, a small daily amount of alcohol is thought to help prevent gall bladder disease.

Cancer. The risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, and other parts of the body having direct contact with alcohol appears to be increased by chronic heavy drinking. The risk is especially increased if heavy drinking is combined with heavy smoking. Primary liver cell cancer, while not common in North America, is more often seen in persons with heavy alcohol consumption, perhaps because of altered metabolism of carcinogens in the liver. Chronic heavy drinking is thought to irritate tissue so that carcinogenic substances in cigarettes or in the congeners present in alcoholic beverages may make these individuals more susceptible to cancer. Malnutrition Associated with chronic heavy drinking may cause weakness in the mucosa so as to enable carcinogenic substances to react more readily with the damaged tissue. Much research is still being done in this area of alcohol in relation to cancer.

Sleep. Too much alcohol before bedtime decreases the amount of REM sleep. After drinking for a while before bedtime and then stopping, a slight REM increase occurs, which is a rebound phenomenon. The greater the dose of alcohol, the more prolonged the block in REM sleep. The usual consequences of deprived REM sleep are impaired concentration and memory as well as anxiety, irritability, and fatigue.

Withdrawal. As with other depressants, abrupt withdrawal from alcohol can cause serious consequences. In the case of alcohol, death may even occur from convulsions unless the person is hospitalized. With someone who has built up tolerance and a dependency upon alcohol, abrupt withdrawal after eight to nine hours produces tremors, insomnia, lack of appetite, hallucinations, and sometimes mild seizures. After two to four days, delirium tremors (D.s.) may occur, in which there is severe agitation, fever, rapid heartbeat, sweating, delusions, hallucinations, profound mental confusion, and severe convulsions. Death can occur during this stage from continuous convulsions unless other medications, usually tranquilizers or barbiturates, are administered.


Alcoholism/problem drinking is a complex, chronic process with many definitions. It is North America's most serious drug abuse problem and causes serious health consequences for the individual, his or her family, and society in general. About one in ten persons who drinks becomes an alcoholic. Most alcoholics are not "skid row bums." Only about 5 percent fall into this category, whereas the rest are your relatives, friends, teachers, doctors, and boy and girl friends. Alcoholism tends to be more common in individuals past their late thirties, but it appears to be increasing among younger individuals. Alcoholic persons have both a physical and psychological dependency upon alcohol and usually -

  1. 1. have a loss of control over their drinking. They find that they are drinking when they did not intend to drink or drink more than they planned.
  2. 2. have functional or structural damage with social, economic, or domestic problems. There are often job and family problems among alcoholics, along with various alcohol-related illnesses.
  3. 3. use alcohol as a way to escape from various problems that threaten to deteriorate their lives.
  4. 4. continue the negative drinking behavior even though it causes problems.

Alcoholic persons usually deny they have a problem with their drinking. They often go through changes of personality, drinking patterns, and serious health and social problems such as job loss and divorce still denying that alcohol is the basic cause of their problems. As stated previously, alcoholics are usually middle-class individuals, with only about 3 to 5 percent being "skid row bums."

In the 1950s, E.M. Jellinek proposed phases and stages in the development of alcoholism based upon several thousand males undergoing rehabilitation for late stage alcoholism. However, these stages may not occur among all problem drinkers.

1. Prealcoholic Phase. During the prealcoholic phase, the individual is usually engaged in controlled or cultural drinking. He or she may use alcohol for occasional escape from tension, but drinking is starting to become more purposeful. Next the individual may begin to drink more and more to escape from tensions and start to develop a tolerance to alcohol.

2. Early alcoholic or Prodromal Stage. Blackouts or temporary alcoholic amnesia occurs in which the person cannot remember what happened and may wake up in a strange bed in a strange place. This is a serious sign, and at this point serious consideration to one's drinking patterns should be considered. Along with blackouts there is often a preoccupation with alcohol. The individual may feel guilty and attempt to abstain from alcohol for a time, or to change drinking habits such as time, place, or types of alcohol consumed.

3. Middle Stage. The alcoholic loses control of his or her drinking and is unable to stop when he or she wishes during the middle stage. Jobs and personal relationships begin to deteriorate. At this point the person may begin to neglect food and begin to have morning tremors and engage in early morning drinking to remove them. There may also be a decrease in alcohol tolerance and physical debilitation.

4. Late Stage. During the late stage, the individual suffers from impaired thinking, physical and mental damage, and complete obsession with drinking. If drinking is not continued, Dts will occur. The person usually neglects food, and most interpersonal relationships are all but destroyed. Benders are common, in which long bouts of drinking occur.


There appear to be several different types of alcoholism, which may have different causes. Moreover, there is much debate as to the nature of the different types and how they should be classified. In general, alcoholics can be grouped into four broad categories.

1. Physiological. This type of alcoholic is common in alcohol-producing countries such as France and Italy, where alcohol is considered to be an essential part of the meal. Over the years the individual who drinks several glasses of wine per day may become physiologically dependent upon the substance and may go into withdrawal symptoms when deprived of alcohol. The individual may not have family, work, psychological, or legal problems.

2. Psychological or "North American." This type of alcoholism is common in the United States, Canada, the British Isles, and the Scandinavian countries. The person starts off as a social drinker, and over a period of several years he/she gradually begins to drink more and more, especially when in a negative psychological state. Family, job, and legal problems generally begin to occur.

3. Primary. In primary alcoholism, the condition develops rapidly, usually while the person (generally a male) is in his teens or early twenties. There are often serious problems in the family, including alcoholism or other addictions, legal problems, and child abuse. The individual may have been hyperactive as a child.

4. Secondary. Individuals with secondary alcoholism generally have an underlying condition such as schizophrenia, cyclic depression, or manic depressive reaction. They use alcohol to medicate themselves. Once the underlying cause is treated, the alcohol abuse often goes away. Only a small percentage of the population is considered to have this type of alcoholism.


Over the years there have been many theories as to the cause of alcoholism and what it is. In the past it was considered a sin, moral weakness, or lack of willpower. Today it is considered a disease, chronic condition, or addictive behavior or disorder. Alcoholism, like cancer, is probably a number of different illnesses and conditions, and different things may trigger the condition in different individuals. At present, various research reports suggest that alcoholism is caused by physiological, psychological, and sociological factors with no simple answer as to its etiology.

Physiological Theories

Genetic. Some types of alcoholism appear to run in families and are thought to be genetic in origin. As mentioned previously, studies in Denmark showed that when sons of alcoholics were adopted by non-alcoholic families, they were just as likely to become alcoholic as those reared by their biological families. It is estimated that about 25 percent of the alcoholic population may have inherited a behavioral propensity that increases their risk for alcoholism. Individuals manifesting this propensity are often rebellious, attention seeking, manipulative of people, impulsive, egocentric, and liable to abuse or overdo all types of substances and activities.

Stress. Some types of alcoholism are thought to be an adaptative mechanism in the response to stress. An individual under stress often feels anxious, tense, angry, lonely, bored, and/or nervous. Drinking alcohol sometimes appears to reduce these negative feelings. This may then lead to a pattern of using alcohol in order to reduce these uncomfortable feelings when the individual confronts a negative experience.

Abnormal Metabolites in the Brain. A theory of the cause of some forms of alcoholism is that some individuals have an abnormal metabolite in the brain that may produce the addictive state in response to consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Genetictropic Theory. Genetictropic theory combines the concept of genetic trait and a nutritional deficiency. It is postulated that because of an inherited defect of metabolism, some people require unusual amounts of some essential vitamins. Since they do not get these amounts in their normal diet, these people have a nutritional deficiency that results in an abnormal craving for alcohol by those who become acquainted with it. Some research indicates that when rats are fed diets deficient in the B vitamin group, they prefer alcohol to water.

Endocrine Theory. Endocrine theory suggests a dysfunction of the endocrine system. Similarities between alcoholic patients and patients with endocrine disorders suggest that some failure of the endocrines might be related to the onset of alcoholism. Experimental clinical evidence does not provide much support for this theory.

Psychological Theories.

Psychoanalytic Theory. Psychoanalytic theory in a Freudian framework explains the cause of alcoholism as self destruction, oral fixation, and a latent homosexual struggle for power. The view that alcoholism develops as a response to an inner conflict between dependency drives and aggressive impulses is also considered a cause by other psychoanalytic writers. There is some evidence to suggest that frustrated ambitions may play a role in the development of an alcohol problem, as alcohol provides a sense of power and feeling of achievement. However, few studies have been carried out that confirm these theories.

Learning Theory. Learning theory explains alcoholism as being a learned behavior strengthened by reinforcement. Alcohol ingestion is considered a reflex response to some stimulus as a way of reducing boredom, anger, anxiety, loneliness, or depression.

Personality Trait Theory. Some research has attempted to define the causes of alcoholism in terms of an "alcoholic personality." Some of the characteristics found among alcoholics are low frustration tolerance, feeling of inferiority, fearfulness, and dependency. Much research has attempted to identify an underlying personality disorder. However, being able to predict alcoholism by personality characteristics is still difficult.

Sociological Theories

Cultural Theory. Most cultures have used alcohol, yet different groups have higher rates of alcoholism than others. North Americans, northern French, Poles, Russians, Swedes, Swiss, and Irish, who tend to drink for the sake of drinking, have high rates of alcoholism. Chinese, southern French, Greeks, Italians, Jews, Portuguese, and Spaniards, who tend to drink in religious celebrations or with the family, tend to have lower rates of alcoholism. It is thought that the attitude toward drinking held by a culture, the degree that the culture provides suitable substitute means for satisfaction, and the degree to which a culture operates to reduce inner tensions or acute needs for adjustment for its members may influence the rate of alcoholism.

Deviant Behavior Theory. Alcoholism is viewed as deviant behavior by some. According to this theory, the alcoholic is a person who through a set of circumstances becomes publicly labeled as deviant and is forced by society's reaction into playing a deviant role. In societies in which drinking customs, values, and actions are known and agreed upon by all members of the group, there is a lower rate of alcoholism than in societies in which there is no consensus of opinion on what constitutes responsible drinking.

Heredity Plus Environment Theory. This theory postulates that an individual is born with a genetic trait to become an alcoholic, and depending upon the family environment, he/she may or may not develop the condition. This is different than the "genetic" theory in that environment has an influence upon whether the person will become an alcoholic. Individuals brought up in a warm, supportive emotional environment may not develop the condition, whereas persons raised in psychologically abusive or stressful family environments may readily develop the disorder. In summary, there is no generally agreed upon single cause of alcoholism, or, for that matter, of any other addictive behavior. See Section Nine for details concerning other addictions.


Since alcoholism is often considered a family disorder, disease or dysfunction, a highly debatable condition called co-dependency has been suggested by some. Others feel that we are all co-dependent and this so called condition is a passing fad. The co-dependent may be a spouse, parent, child, or close friend. Co-dependents are thought to have emotional problems of various degrees of severity. They develop these problems from long-term interaction with the alcoholic individual, especially as a child(See Appendix A for the CODE test).


Pregnancy. The fetal alcohol syndrome, in which babies born to women who are chronic heavy drinkers or alcoholics are deformed, has become widely discussed during the past few years. The defects include mental retardation, small head, tremors, and other abnormalities. It is estimated that if a woman consumes below 2 ounces of 100 proof whiskey a day during her pregnancy, the chances of her drinking causing birth defects in her child are low. If, however, she drinks between 2 and 4 ounces a day, the risks are 10 percent, and if she drinks 10 ounces a day or more, the danger of producing a child with abnormalities could be 50 percent or higher.

MACDUFF: What three things does drink especially provoke?

PORTER: Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes; it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance...

William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 3.

Sexual Activity. The drinking of small amounts of alcohol can lower inhibitions and make the person more relaxed and more apt to engage in social and sexual activities tht he or she might not engage in while not intoxicated. However, too much alcohol in males causes an inability to maintain an erection. In persons with chronic alcoholism, there is degeneration and dysfunctioning of the sex glands and increased sex problems in both men and women.


Responsible Choices Concerning Drinking

We are a nation of drinkers. About 80 percent of university-aged individuals reading this book drink at least once a year. Drinking, like eating, or any social activity, has some guidelines to help the participant get more enjoyment out of the activity. Gobbling down half a chocolate cake at a party would not be considered responsible eating or even polite. The same goes for drinking. Responsible choices concerning drinking may mean not drinking, such as when a person is sick, taking medications or being the designated driver. Responsible drinking means that you never have to feel sorry for what has happened while you were drinking. Basically, this means not becoming drunk. The following are some hints to help you drink responsibly and derive more enjoyment and pleasure from drinking if you choose to drink.

1. Know your limit. If you do not already know how much alcohol you can handle without losing control, try it out one time at home with your parents or roommate present. Explain to them what you are attempting to learn. Most people find that no more than a drink and a half per hour will keep them in control of the situation and avoid drunkenness.

2. Eat food while you drink. It is particularly good to eat high protein foods such as cheese and peanuts, which help to slow the absorption of alcohol into the circulatory system.

3. Sip your drink. If you gulp a drink for the effect, you are losing a pleasure of drinking, namely tasting and smelling the various flavors. This is particularly true for wine.

4. Accept a drink only when you really want one. At a party if someone is trying to force another drink on you, ask for ice or drink an alternative beverage.

5. Cultivate taste. Choose quality rather than quantity. Learn the names of fine wines, whiskeys, and beers. Learn what beverage goes with what foods.

6. Skip a drink now and then. When at a party, have a nonalcoholic drink between the alcoholic one to keep your blood alcohol concentration down. Space your alcoholic drinks out to keep the desired blood alcohol concentration.

7. When drinking out, if you must drive home, have your drinks with dinner, not afterwards. This allows time for the alcohol to be burned up and for it to be absorbed slowly into the circulatory system.

8. Beware of unfamiliar drinks. Such drinks as zombies and other fruit and rum drinks can be deceiving, as the alcohol is not always detectable, and it is difficult to space them out.

9. Make sure that drinking improves social relationships rather than impairs them. Serve alcohol as an adjunct to an activity rather than as the primary focus. Have a German night party rather than just getting together to drink beer.

10. Appoint a designated driver. Have someone available who will not be drinking and will drive all drinkers home.

11. Use alcohol carefully in connection with other drugs.

12. Respect the rights of individuals who do not wish to drink. It is considered impolite to attempt to get people to drink who do not wish to. They may abstain for religious or medical reasons, because they are recovering alcoholics, or they just may not like the taste and effect it has on them.

13. Avoid drinking mixed drinks on an empty stomach on a hot day. This might produce hypoglycemia, which can cause dizziness, weakness, and mood change.

Responsible Hosting

Most people love to go to parties, and most find that parties are fun to give. The following tips for being a responsible host will give more pleasure to you and your guests.

1. Plan people movement. Make sure that people can move around and meet each other. If it means putting the sofa in a corner, do so.

2. The bartender. If you plan to have a friend act as bartender, make sure that he or she is not an eager pusher who uses the role to put an extra shot in every's glass.

3. Pace the drinks. Serve drinks at regular, reasonable intervals. A drink-an-hour schedule usually means that good company prevails.

4. Don't double up. Many people count and pace their drinks. If you serve doubles, they will be drinking twice as much as they planned. Doubling up is considered rude.

5. Push the snacks. Make sure that people are eating along with drinking.

6. Don't push the drinks. Let the glass be empty before you offer a refill.

7. Serve nonalcoholic beverages also. Remember that one out of five university-aged individuals chooses not to drink. Make sure that you have something nonalcoholic to drink. If you are having a kegger, also include soda pop on ice.

8. Closing the party. Decide, in advance, when you want your party to end. At this time, stop serving alcohol and serve coffee and a substantial snack. This provides some nondrinking time before your guests drive home.

Alcohol has been used by most cultures and if you do chose to drink, please do so in a responsible, safe, and healthy way.