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10 FAQs About ALCOHOL, Health and the Law

Alcohol: Also known by its scientific name “ethanol”, alcohol is a colorless, volatile, and pungent solvent in liquid form found in fermented liquors such as beer, wine, wine coolers, champagne, and liquors.  It is a depressant to the central nervous system when ingested.  If ingested in large amounts, coma or death will occur.

Alcohol Abuse:  A pattern of problem drinking that results in adverse health consequences, negative social problems or interactions, or both.  Consumption of alcohol can lead to criminal problems whenever the person consuming alcohol violates the laws relating to the most common intoxicant.  Crimes such as public drunkenness, underage possession of alcohol, drunk driving, hunting while intoxicated result in more arrests each year than any other substance-based crime.

Alcoholism:  A primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations.

Binge Drinking:  A social phenomenon defined by alcohol abuse experts as “consumption of five or more drinks on a single occasion”.  This quantity is approximately the amount of alcohol needed to raise the average sized person's blood alcohol concentration to about 0.10%.  To the lay person, the term “binge drinking” is associated with young adults or teens slamming down an excessive number of alcoholic beverages over a short time period, possibly resulting in brain damage, respiratory failure or death.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC):  The amount of alcohol in the bloodstream, measured as a percentage of the total blood supply.

Cirrhosis:  A serious, life-threatening liver disease, and probably the most recognized medical complication of chronic alcoholism.  It is a grave and irreversible condition characterized by a progressive replacement of healthy liver tissue with scars, which can lead to liver failure and death.

Enabler:  A person (often a relative, spouse or life partner) who, without malicious intent, helps to support the abusive behavior of the person who uses alcohol or drugs.   An example of an enabler would be someone who tries to shield the user from the full consequences of their antisocial or illegal behavior.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS):  An irreversible medical condition associated with excessive consumption of alcohol by a pregnant woman.  The “fetal alcohol syndrome” child is born with low birth weight, noticeable facial deformities (typically, an undeveloped nose and eyes closely set) as well as other developmental deficiencies.  Low brain function is the norm for these children.  With severe cases, the child dies within a few years of birth, due to abnormalities caused by the birth mother’s excessive use of alcohol.

Intoxication:  A condition of diminished mental (and physical) capacity that occurs when the brain is exposed to alcohol (or other psychoactive drugs, substances or plant material) resulting in temporary changes in mood, judgment, cognitive functioning, motor functioning, and behavior.  In general, an intoxicated person is said to have slower, depressed mental acuity as a result of ingesting (or otherwise taking into the person’s system) an inhalant, beverage or intravenous that has impairing substances in it.

Wine Coolers:  also known as "wine foolers," are mixtures of wine and fruit juice, based upon the "Sangria" punches that were popular in Europe.  These pre-mixed punches are about 1.5 times more potent---ounce for ounce---than the typical American beer.  Because they taste so good, the person drinking them may not appreciate how much of the beverage has been consumed.  Fortified wines are fermented wine beverages that have been “spiked” with additional ethanol (alcohol) to create a more potent beverage (higher proof and higher alcohol content).


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