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What do you know about alcohol?

Home Resources What do you know about alcohol?

What do you know about alcohol?

Alcohol can be a tough topic, because it is so widely used but can also be very dangerous. Here are a few things you may not know about alcohol.

According to a study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, analyzing trends from 2019, nearly 26% of people ages 18 and older reported binge drinking in the past month. Among American youth, nearly 15 million people ages 12 and older suffered from alcohol use disorder (AUD), with approximately 414,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 (1.7 percent of the entire age group) beset by AUD. Conversely, around 10.5% of children in the U.S. ages 17 and younger live with a parent suffering from AUD. 

In the realm of emergencies and deaths, recent years have seen a considerable rise in alcohol-related emergency department (ED) visits, increasing 47% between 2006 and 2014. Among ED visits overall, 18.5% percent of them are due to alcohol. Moreover, 22.1% of overdose deaths involving prescription opioids themselves have alcohol has a contributing factor. 

Generally, alcohol ranks as the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, behind tobacco (first) and obesity (second), with approximately 95,000 deaths annually. Of these, 10,265 results from alcohol-related driving fatalities. In all, alcohol presents a range of risks and disorders—both widespread without being widely understood—demanding greater attention. 

Is alcohol considered a drug?

Absolutely. The National Institutes of Health correctly identify alcohol as a drug. In fact, it’s a drug that carries risks for all, particularly for adolescents, whose brains are still developing. It is classified as a depressant, meaning that it slows down vital functions and reduces a person’s ability to think with clear, rational judgement.

Alcohol is legal, so it can’t be that dangerous, right?

Wrong. Prescription drugs are legal, and we all know how dangerous they can be if they are misused. In fact, 32% of all traffic deaths are the result of alcohol use. Add in the detrimental effects of alcohol on the liver, heart, and brain, and you end up with this sad and staggering statistic.

According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 88,000 lives are claimed each year due to alcohol abuse.

Is there such a thing as alcohol overdose?

Most people aren’t aware that you can overdose from alcohol. Overdoses can include problems with balance and slurred speech to coma or even death. The amount of alcohol that can lead someone to a dangerous overdose varies among individuals and age, weight, gender, drinking experience, the amount of food eaten, and even ethnicity all can influence how much is too much.

Is substance abuse in children a problem?

Underage and new drinkers are at highest risk for alcohol overdose. Research from NIAAA tells us that people under age 20 typically drink about 5 drinks at one time. Drinking such a large quality of alcohol can overwhelm the body’s ability to break down and clear alcohol from the bloodstream. This leads to rapid increases in blood alcohol content (BAC) and significantly impairs brain function.

As BAC increases, so do alcohol’s effects, as well as the risk for harm. Even small increases in BAC can decrease coordination, make a person feel sick, and cloud judgment. This can lead to injury from falls or car crashes, leave one vulnerable to sexual assault or other acts of violence, and increase the risk for unprotected or unintended sex. When BACs go even higher, amnesia (or blackouts) can occur.

What is alcohol poisoning, and can it be deadly?

Continuing to drink despite signs and symptoms of significant impairment can result in a potentially deadly type of overdose called alcohol poisoning. NIAAA states that “Alcohol poisoning occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support functions—such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control—begin to shut down.

Keep in mind that the person’s BAC can continue to rise even if the person has stopped drinking and is unconscious. Alcohol in the stomach and intestine are continuously entering the bloodstream increasing the person’s BAC even after they stop drinking.

According to NIAAA, symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion and difficulty remaining conscious
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Trouble with breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Clammy skin
  • Dulled responses (such as no gag reflex, which prevents choking)
  • Extremely low body temperature
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