Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is an intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches. It is a central nervous system depressant that is rapidly absorbed from the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream. A standard drink equals 0.6 ounces of pure ethanol, or 12 ounces of beer; 8 ounces of malt liquor; 5 ounces of wine; or 1.5 ounces (a "shot") of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey). NIDA does not conduct research on alcohol; for more information, please visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Alcohol affects every organ in the drinker's body and can damage a developing fetus. Intoxication can impair brain function and motor skills; heavy use can increase risk of certain cancers, stroke, and liver disease. Alcoholism or alcohol dependence is a diagnosable disease characterized by a strong craving for alcohol, and/or continued use despite harm or personal injury. Alcohol abuse, which can lead to alcoholism, is a pattern of drinking that results in harm to one's health, interpersonal relationships, or ability to work.
Statistics and Trends
In 2009, 51.9% of Americans age 12 and older had used alcohol at least once in the 30 days prior to being surveyed; 23.7% had binged (5+ drinks within 2 hours); and 6.8% drank heavily (5+ drinks on 5+ occasions). In the 12-17 age range, 14.7% had consumed at least one drink in the 30 days prior to being surveyed; 8.8% had binged; and 2.1% drank heavily. Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Web Site). The NIDA-funded 2010 Monitoring the Future Study showed that 13.8% of 8th graders, 28.9% of 10th graders, and 41.2% of 12th graders had consumed at least one drink in the 30 days prior to being surveyed, and 5.0% of 8th graders, 14.7% of 10th graders, and 26.8% of 12th graders had been drunk. Source: Monitoring the Future (University of Michigan Web Site).
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As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior.