Background info on alcohol use

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Email Address. What is Alcohol? Drinking and Driving. Young People Versus Adults. What's the Difference? What is Binge Drinking? What is Alcoholism or Alcohol Dependence? International Statistics. The Youngest Victims. Alcohol: A Short History. The Truth About Drugs.


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Fermented beverages in early Egyptian civilization. Photo Credit: GoddessGift. First Name. The highest level of alcohol consumption occurs in the developed world. This fact is not surprising since the history of alcoholic beverages is linked to the history of mankind. For centuries, alcohol consumption has been part of our culture and society.

30 Facts About Alcohol, Plus 5 Myths: Statistics and More

Drinking alcohol is a social activity, embedded today in traditional and sociocultural contexts. Probably, the main reason for alcohol consumption is its ability to produce positive moods and stress-relieving effects. In the last twenty years, worldwide per capita consumption of alcohol has remained stable. Currently, every person in the world aged 15 years or older drinks on average approximately 6 liters of pure alcohol per year. However, not all people in the world drink alcohol. Specifically, This mean that those who drink alcohol consume on average However, according to data from the Global Information System on Alcohol and Health [ 2 ], there are significant geographical variations in total per capita alcohol consumption.

Thus, Chad African WHO region has the highest level of worldwide consumption at more than 33 liters per year. Every year, a large amount of money is spent on alcohol worldwide.

Real Question: Can Alcohol Consumption Cause Brain Damage?

In fact, Europeans spend about billion euros per year on alcoholic beverages. This is reflected in the region's high rate of alcohol consumption per capita: 15 liters of pure ethanol per year. Consuming and abusing these huge amounts of alcohol is clearly a problem, with enormous health and socioeconomic effects worldwide. Thus, harmful use of alcohol is a major public health problem. Drinking alcohol is socially acceptable and associated with relaxation and pleasure, and some people drink alcohol without experiencing harmful effects.

However, alcohol does cause a growing number of people to experience physical, social and psychological harmful effects. Alcohol has important effects on our body, even when consumed in small amounts. The effects of alcohol intoxication are greatly influenced by gender, drinking speed, type and amount of food consumed, etc. BAC refers to the milligrams of alcohol per milliliters of blood, and is usually expressed as a percentage. For instance, having a BAC of 0. As the amount of alcohol consumed in a single sitting increases, the BAC increases proportionately.

As indicated in Table 2 , excessive alcohol use has immediate physiological and psychological effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These effects vary from mood changes to alcohol poisoning and coma. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to chronic diseases cardiovascular problems, liver diseases… , neurological impairment and social problems, including unemployment and family problems.

Also, people who drink too much or too often, or are unable to control alcohol consumption, can develop an alcohol use disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5 defines Alcohol Use Disorder AUD as the presence of at least 2 of 11 criteria within a month period, defined by a cluster of behavioral and physical symptoms organized in four groups:. Impaired control : 1 alcohol is often taken in large amounts or over longer period than was intended, 2 unsuccessful efforts to stop or cut down alcohol use, 3 spending a great deal of time obtaining, using, or recovering from alcohol use, 4 craving for the substance.

Social impairment: 5 failure to fulfill major obligations due to use, 6 continued use despite problems caused or exacerbated by use, 7 important social, occupational or recreational activities given up or reduced because of alcohol use. Risky use: 8 recurrent alcohol use in hazardous situations, 9 continued use despite physical or psychological problems caused or exacerbated by alcohol use. Pharmacological dependence: 10 tolerance to substance effects, 11 withdrawal symptoms when not using or using less. According to the DSM-5, the severity of the alcohol use disorder mild, moderate and severe is based on the number of criteria met.

Anyone meeting 2 or 3 criteria would receive the mild AUD diagnosis. Anyone meeting 4 or 5 criteria would receive the moderate AUD diagnosis. Finally, anyone meeting 6 or more criteria would receive the severe AUD diagnosis. Although a large proportion of the population consumes alcohol, not all of them become alcohol dependent.

Research shows that people who drink moderately may be less likely to experience AUD. Thus, only 3. When comparing different WHO regions, the following conclusion can be made. The highest lifetime prevalence of alcohol use disorder occurs in Europe 6. The lowest prevalence rates of alcohol use disorders occurs in South-East Asia 2. Specifically, alcohol use is ranked as the third leading risk factor for disease and disability in the world.

It is the leading risk factor in the Western Pacific and the Americas, and the second largest in Europe. According to data from the Global Information System on Alcohol and Health [ 2 ], harmful use of alcohol kills 3. Also, alcohol has been shown to be causally related to more than 60 different types of diseases and injuries [ 5 ]. For example, Generally, the risk of suffering these disease is related to the volume of alcohol consumed: the higher the volume, the larger the risk of these diseases.

The impact of harmful use of alcohol is not just personal, it may also impose significant social and economic costs on society. More than 70 percent of the estimated cost of alcohol abuse is attributed to lost productivity. Other costs are largely the result of alcohol-related health care, motor vehicle accidents, and law enforcement and other criminal justice expenses. Adolescents are a particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol.

Alcohol Addiction and Abuse

In fact, ten years ago, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism NIAAA formed an interdisciplinary working group on underage drinking in order to intensify research, evaluation and outreach efforts on the underage drinking problem. Alcohol is the most common drug of abuse in adolescence, more than tobacco and other illicit drugs. Misuse of alcohol among adolescent is an international problem.

In fact, Bearing in mind all these data, in the World Health Assembly approved a resolution to urge countries to strengthen national responses to public health problems caused by the harmful use of alcohol. In general, adolescence can be defined as the transitional period between childhood and adult maturity characterized by behavioral, hormonal and neurochemical changes designed to prepare the body for independent survival.

It is derived from the Latin adolescere -. The present participle adolescens means growing up; the past participle adultus means grown up. However, different definitions of adolescence have been used in scientific literature. In spite of conceptual term differences, all studies agree with the idea that adolescence is a time of marked change, a time of transition into adulthood.

Therefore, at this age, people experiment with adult aspects of life: they establish their own identities, make close relationship outside the family, and want to try out new things, some of which may be risky or even dangerous.

Many teenagers experiment with alcohol and illegal drugs. Epidemiological studies have detected the development of a new pattern of alcohol consumption in adolescents.

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This pattern is characterized by drinking large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time, especially in leisure time and weekends, with periods of abstinence between drinking episodes. In spite of the fact that young people drink less often than adults, on average they consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers. Specifically, compared to adults, adolescents drink more than twice as much per drinking episode [ 14 ].

We can say that they show a pattern of binge drinking. For adults, this pattern corresponds to drinking five or more drinks male , or four or more drinks female , in about two hours. For adolescents, an important debate has developed over the definition of binge and whether that definition must be different for adults and adolescents due to alcohol absorption differences. Thus, according to recent research estimates, reaching a given BAC level takes fewer drinks for young people.

Although it has declined in the last decade, underage drinking ages is still an important public health problem. Despite the fact that these teens are under the legal age for purchasing alcohol, many adolescents engage in underage drinking in general and binge drinking in particular. However, the levels and patterns of alcohol consumption vary widely between countries. According to the Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health [ 2 ] the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking in year-olds ranged from Particularly, in the African, Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia regions, young people 15 to 19 are less likely to engage in heavy episodic drinking see Table 3.

By contrast, adolescent alcohol use is common in many European and American countries. Clearly, underage alcohol use increases with age. Specifically, the percentage of the population who drinks at least one whole drink rises steeply during adolescence. In Europe, the binge-drinking rates are even twice or three times higher than in United States [ 16 ]. Table 3 shows clear differences in alcohol use between genders. Underage males report more alcohol use than underage females, independently of WHO region. Similarly, previous studies in adults have shown that women drink less than men and also, that they have more alcohol-related problems than men [ 18 ].

Studies have shown that adolescent girls suffer more adverse cognitive effect related to alcohol than adolescent boys, especially in working memory and visual-spatial functions. Multiple factors can contribute to gender differences in risk factors for alcohol use. For example, hormonal fluctuation, differences in alcohol metabolism, or gender-specific drinking patterns. In agreement with these data showing gender differences in alcohol use profile, alcohol prevention should take these sub-group differences into account.

Binge drinking has many negative short-and long-term outcomes. In a global mortality patterns report, 3.


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  4. Binge drinking is associated with increased risk of:. Underage alcohol use has been associated to risky sexual behavior unwanted, unintended and unprotected sexual activity and multiple sex partners. Such behavior increases the risk of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease infection [ 19 ]. Also, young people who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of physical or sexual assault [ 21 ]. Hazardous alcohol use can reduced physical control and ability to recognize warning signs in potentially dangerous situation, therefore increasing the risk of becoming a victim of violence [ 22 , 23 ].

    Similarly, reduced self-control and ability to process incoming information and assess risks can make some drinkers perpetrate acts of violence [ 24 ]. Recently, it has been proposed that a common risk factor i. Thus, individuals with suicide ideation and attempts are more likely to engage in heavy episodic drinking and have greater alcohol problem [ 28 ]. Also, binge drinking has been associated with successful suicide [ 29 ]. Every year in the United Stated, about young people under 21 commit suicide as result of underage drinking.

    Alcohol has a range of effects on reaction time, cognitive processing, coordination, alertness, vision, and hearing, all of which increase accident risk. Consuming alcohol can cause a range of physical consequences, from hangovers to death from alcohol poisoning. Alcohol intoxication is manifested by such signs as slurred speech, loss of coordination, unsteady gait, euphoria, confusion, impaired judgment or stupefaction.

    Fact Sheets - Binge Drinking

    Also, it can lead to complications such as trauma, dehydration, delirium, heart attack or convulsions. In the most severe cases, alcohol poisoning can lead to coma and even death. Finally, we know that the adolescent brain undergoes neurodevelopmental changes. These changes can be influenced by genetic, environmental and sexual hormone factors. Thus, drinking alcohol early in the adolescence has adverse effects on the brain [ 31 ].

    The transition to adolescence is characterized by a rapid biological transformation, including the hormonal and physiological changes of puberty. During this period, the body grows height and weight , secondary sex characteristics emerge, and sex hormones reach adult levels. Adolescence is a time of substantial neuromaturation involving important changes in numerous brain regions, including the hippocampus, the prefrontal cortex, and limbic system structures.

    Where we have identified any third party copyright information you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned. This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the to Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. Current policies can be found at the GOV. UK policies list. Although many people who drink do so within these guidelines, binge drinking accounts for half of all alcohol consumed in the UK. For example, alcohol is one of the biggest behavioural risks for disease and death as well as smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity.

    In to there were 1. We want everybody to be aware of the risks of drinking more than the lower-risk guidelines and to make sure that people get support to change their drinking behaviour, if they need it. From April , local councils will have a public health grant, which will include money for alcohol services. Through health and wellbeing boards , councils will work with the NHS, Public Health England and local communities to understand local needs and to set public health priorities. So councils will be able to commission prevention and treatment services that meet the needs of local people, including:.

    It is vital that when somebody is dependent on alcohol they get the support they need to make a full recovery. Service users are often frustrated at having several assessments before they go into treatment. The pilot programme has a single point of assessment and referral, which follows the patient through recovery to continually assess progress. Importantly, they also have the technical expertise to make less harmful alcohol products.