Alcohol, also known as booze, bubbly, firewater, joy juice, sauce, and liquid courage, is the most commonly abused psychoactive drug in the US. It’s easily accessed and often displayed in ads and commercials as something “fun,” “refreshing,” or “glamorous.” These marketing tactics make it seem that much more appealing, especially towards younger viewers such as teens and young adults. 

So, is it a stimulant or depressant?

While many believe the drink to be a stimulant, it’s actually a depressant, which slows the central nervous system. It’s difficult to find alcohol in its pure form. Should anyone consume more than a couple ounces, their blood alcohol level (BAL) can increase drastically to dangerous, deadly levels. Thus, the percentage of alcohol content is listed on wine, liquor, and beer bottles. 

To learn more about the long and short-term effects of alcohol, click here.

What is alcohol?

There are various kinds of alcohol available at food markets, drug stores, and superstores. For example, we use rubbing alcohol to clean an injury. Certain alcohol compounds are found in nail polish removers and other cleaning agents. However, the kind that is used for drinking purposes is made up of different compounds. This kind is called “ethyl alcohol” or “ethanol.” 

Ethanol levels explained

Ethanol levels fluctuate depending on the alcoholic beverage. The following list contains averages – certain brands and brews may have higher or lower levels.

  • Beer: 4-6%
  • Malt liquor: 5-8%
  • Wine: 7-15%
  • Wine coolers: 3-10%
  • Champagne: 8-14%
  • Hard liquor (vodka, rum, whiskey, etc): 40-95%
  • Grain alcohol: 95-97.5%

Alcoholic beverage sizes according to the user’s body

It can take the average drinker’s body about 1 hour to metabolize a single drink. However, as the user continues to drink through the evening, their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) begins to rise. As it increases, the user will feel stronger effects of intoxication. The factors for these feelings arising includes:

  • Amount consumed
  • Time taken to ingest
  • Gender, weight, body size, and body fat percentage
  • Amount of food in stomach
  • Usage of any medications or non-prescription drugs
  • Mindset at time of consumption
  • Setting

Use and tolerance

Depending on the frequency and amount a person may consume, they may develop a tolerance to the effects over time. This can lead users to fall into the habit of increasing the amount of liquor they ingest, which can cause serious health problems over time. Eventually, should the user continue to drink, they may fall into the habit of using alcohol as a crutch to help get themselves through stressful times or simply to feel “normal.” This can lead to the vicious cycle of addiction.

To learn more about the 12 signs of problematic drinking, click here.

Women and alcohol

While two-thirds of alcoholics are men, women feel the negative effects of alcohol more strongly. Alcohol affects women more so than men due to the female body having lower body water levels and fewer alcohol dehydrogenase (stomach enzyme that helps break down the toxins). This also means that should a woman drink heavily for a lengthy period of time, she is at a higher risk of developing physical ailments caused by alcohol. 

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning (and what to do)

If the person who has been drinking excessively through the night and you stumble upon them exhibiting these symptoms: 

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Irregular or Slow breathing (less than 8 breaths a minute)
  • Blue-tinged or pale skin
  • Low body temperature
  • Unable to maintain consciousness and can’t be awakened

Keep in mind that not all symptoms need to be displayed. Anyone with alcohol poisoning who remains unconscious is at high risk of death. Should you think someone is suffering, don’t delay. Here’s what to do:

  • Call 911 immediately. Don’t wait to see if this person will sleep it off.
  • Be ready. You will have to provide information. Make sure you tell the hospital and the emergency staff anything you know that may help them help this person more efficiently and quickly.
  • Don’t leave them alone. If this person is unconscious, stay with them until help arrives. Alcohol poisoning affects the gag reflex, which can cause the person to choke on their own vomit, which usually leads to asphyxiation and death. Don’t try to make this person throw up, either.
  • Help the person if they’re vomiting. This may be a difficult task for those squeamish, but it’s immensely important. Try to keep this person sitting up. If they can’t, be sure to keep them on their side – specifically their heads facing the side. It can reduce their chances of choking. 
  • Try to keep them awake. It’s better to keep them conscious.

Underaged drinking and what can go wrong

Should alcohol poisoning occur at an underaged party, never be afraid to call for emergency, professional help. While you may not fully know if the person is suffering from alcohol poisoning and worry about any kind of consequences, don’t talk yourself into thinking they’ll just “sleep it off.” The consequences of avoiding getting them help are much more serious than being caught drinking underaged


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