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Alcohol is the common name for ethyl alcohol, the intoxicating element in fermented and distilled liquors. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not a stimulant. The noisy animation at drinking parties is due to alcohol’s effect as a depressant. Small amounts of alcohol reduce inhibitions and produce feelings of relaxation and euphoria. Larger amounts cause greater impairment of the brain until the drinker loses consciousness. Alcohol is also not an aphrodisiac. Rather than enhancing sexual arousal, it usually impairs performance, especially in males. As William Shakespeare observed long ago, drink “provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.”

Some people become relaxed and friendly when they are drunk. Others become aggressive and want to argue or fight. How can the same drug have such different effects? Some people drink for pleasure while others drink to cope with negative emotions, such as anxiety and depression. That’s why alcohol abuse increases with the level of stress in people’s lives. People who drink to relieve bad feelings are at great risk of becoming alcoholics ( Kenneth, Carpenter, & Hasin, 1998).

Also, when a person is drunk, thinking and perception become dulled or shortsighted, a condition that has been called alcohol myopia (my-OH-pea-ah) (Giancola et al., 2010). Only the most obvious and immediate stimuli catch a drinker’s attention. Worries and “second thoughts” that would normally restrain behavior are banished from the drinker’s mind. That’s why many behaviors become more extreme when a person is drunk. On college campuses, drunken students tend to have accidents, get into fights, sexually assault others, or engage in risky sex. They also destroy property and disrupt the lives of students who are trying to sleep or study (Brower, 2002).


Alcohol, the world’s favorite depressant, breeds our biggest drug problem. More than 20 million people in the United States and Canada have serious drinking problems. One American dies every 20 minutes in an alcohol-related car crash. Significant percentages of Americans of all ages abuse alcohol (Figure 1).


Figure 1

Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality

(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011)


© Cengage Learning

Many Americans of all ages abuse alcohol. According to this 2010 survey, about 40 percent of young adults aged 18–29 admitted to heavy alcohol use or binge drinking in the month before the survey was administered

It is especially worrisome to see binge drinking among adolescents and young adults. Binge drinking is defined as downing five or more drinks (four drinks for women) in a short time. Apparently, many students think it’s entertaining to get completely wasted and throw up on their friends. However, binge drinking is a serious sign of alcohol abuse (Beseler, Taylor, & Leeman, 2010). It is responsible for 1,800 college student deaths each year and thousands of trips to the emergency room (Mitka, 2009).

Binge drinking is of special concern because the brain continues to develop into the early twenties. Research has shown that teenagers and young adults who drink too much may lose as much as 10 percent of their brain power—especially their memory capacity (Brown et al., 2000). Such losses can have a long-term impact on a person’s chances for success in life. In short, getting drunk is a slow but sure way to get stupid (Wechsler & Wuethrich, 2002).

At Risk

Binge drinking and alcohol abuse have become serious problems among college students (Tewksbury, Higgins, & Mustaine,2008).

Children of alcoholics and those who have other relatives who abuse alcohol are at greater risk for becoming alcohol abusers themselves. The increased risk appears to be partly genetic. It is based on the fact that some people have stronger cravings for alcohol after they drink (Hutchison et al., 2002). Women also face some special risks. For one thing, alcohol is absorbed faster and metabolized more slowly by women’s bodies. As a result, women get intoxicated from less alcohol than men do. Women who drink are also more prone to liver disease, osteoporosis, and depression. Each extra drink per day adds 7 percent to a woman’s risk of breast cancer (Aronson, 2003).

Recognizing Problem Drinking

What are the signs of alcohol abuse? Because alcohol abuse is such a common problem, it is important to recognize the danger signals. If you can answer yes to even one of the following questions, you may have a problem with drinking (adapted from the College Alcohol Problems Scale, revised; Maddock et al., 2001):

As a result of drinking alcoholic beverages I… .

1. engaged in unplanned sexual activity.

2. drove under the influence.

3. did not use protection when engaging in sex.

4. engaged in illegal activities associated with drug use.

5. felt sad, blue, or depressed.

6. was nervous or irritable.

7. felt bad about myself.

8. had problems with appetite or sleeping.

Moderated Drinking

Almost everyone has been to a party spoiled by someone who drank too much too fast. Those who avoid overdrinking have a better time, and so do their friends. But how do you avoid drinking too much? After all, as one wit once observed, “The conscience dissolves in alcohol.” It takes skill to regulate drinking in social situations, where the temptation to drink can be strong. If you choose to drink, here are some guidelines that may be helpful (adapted from Miller & Munoz, 2005; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2008):

Paced Drinking

1. Think about your drinking beforehand, plan how you will manage it, and keep track of how much you drink.

2. Drink slowly (no more than one drink an hour), eat while drinking or drink on a full stomach, and make every other drink (or more) a nonalcoholic beverage.

3. Limit drinking primarily to the first hour of a social event or party.

4. Practice how you will politely but firmly refuse drinks.

5. Learn how to relax, meet people, and socialize without relying on alcohol.

And remember, research has shown that you are likely to overestimate how much your fellow students are drinking (Maddock & Glanz, 2005). So don’t let yourself be lured into overdrinking just because you have the (probably false) impression that other students are drinking more than you. Limiting your own drinking may help others as well. When people are tempted to drink too much, their main reason for stopping is that “other people were quitting and deciding they’d had enough” (Johnson, 2002).


Treatment for alcohol dependence begins with sobering up the person and cutting off the supply. This phase is referred to as detoxification (literally, “to remove poison”). It frequently produces all the symptoms of drug withdrawal and can be extremely unpleasant. The next step is to try to restore the person’s health. Heavy abuse of alcohol usually causes severe damage to body organs and the nervous system. After alcoholics have “dried out” and some degree of health has been restored, they may be treated with tranquilizers, antidepressants, or psychotherapy. Unfortunately, the success of these procedures has been limited.

One mutual-help approach that has been fairly successful is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA takes a spiritual approach while acting on the premise that it takes a former alcoholic to understand and help a current alcoholic. Participants at AA meetings admit that they have a problem, share feelings, and resolve to stay “dry” one day at a time. Other group members provide support for those struggling to end dependency (Vaillant, 2005). (Other “12-step” programs, such as Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, use the same approach.)

Other groups offer a rational, nonspiritual approach to alcohol abuse that better fits the needs of some people. Examples include Rational Recovery and Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS). Other alternatives to AA include medical treatment, group therapy, mindfulness meditation, and individual psychotherapy (Buddie, 2004; Jacobs-Stewart, 2010). There is a strong tendency for abusive drinkers to deny they have a problem. The sooner they seek help, the better.

� From Coon/Mitterer. Psychology, 5E. © 2014 South-Western, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission.

� From Coon/Mitterer. Psychology, 5E. © 2014 South-Western, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission.

The post Alcohol Paper appeared first on Nursing Essays Center.

The post Alcohol Paper appeared first on Nursing Essays Center.

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