Instead, this drug, a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, is freely available, self-administered, and widely abused, regardless of potentially deadly short and long-term effects. It is addictive. It carries no warning labels, and its manufacturers spend millions yearly to promote its use.
What is it?
The effects of alcohol are related to dose, rate of intake, body size and percentage of body fluid, expectations, social environment, physical conditions (disease or more common hormonal cycles or sleepiness can be factors), enzyme differences, concentration of alcohol in a drink and whether carbonated mixes were used.
Most individuals can tolerate one standard drink per hour with no significant impairment.
Calculation of Estimated Blood Alcohol Level (BAL)
Body Weight: Calculations are for people with a normal body for their height, free of drugs or other affecting medication and neither unusually thin nor obese.
|1 DRINK =||1.25 oz rum, rye, scotch, brandy, gin, vodka, etc.|
|=||1 12-oz bottle of domestic beer|
|=||3.5 oz fortified wine|
|=||5.5 oz unfortified/table wine|
Using the chart: Find the appropriate figure using the proper chart (male or female), body weight and number of drinks consumed. Then subtract the time factor (see Time Factor Table below) from the figure on the chart to obtain the approximate BAL. For example, for a 125-lb. woman who has had 4 drinks in two hours, take the figure .162 (from the chart for males) and subtract .030 (from the Time Factor Table) to obtain a BAL of .132%.
|Hours since first drink||1||2||3||4||5||6|
|Subtract from BAL||.015||.030||.045||.060||.075||.090|
Alcohol first affects the most complex area (the frontal lobe) of the brain. This area controls higher functions of the brain such as judgment and social inhibitions (survival skills for group functioning). These complex functions are more sensitive to alcohol than the brain stem functions of respiration or heart rate. Therefore judgment and self control are the first abilities to be suppressed by alcohol. The following chart illustrates the effects of varying blood alcohol level (BAL).
|Blood Alcohol Level||Alcohol's Effects on Thinking, Feeling, and Behavior|
|.02-.04||Few obvious effects; slight intensification of existing moods; some impairment of judgment or memory.|
|.05-.06||Feeling of warmth, relaxation, mild sedation, exaggeration of emotion and behavior; slight increase in reaction time, impaired judgment about continued drinking; visual and hearing acuity reduced; slight speech impairment; minor disturbance of balance.|
|.07-.09||More noticeable speech impairment and disturbance of balance; impaired coordination; feeling of elation or depression; definite impairment of judgment and memory; major increase in reaction time; may not recognize impairment. Legally intoxicated at .08 BAL.|
|.10-.13||Noticeable disturbance of balance; uncoordinated behavior; major increase in reaction time; increased impairment of judgement and memory.|
|.14-.17||Major impairment of all physical and mental functions; difficulty in standing, talking; distorted perception and judgment; cannot recognize impairment.|
|20-.25||Confused or dazed; major body movements cannot be made without assistance.|
|.30-.35||Minimal perception and comprehension; general suspension of cognitive abilities.|
Tolerance may play a part in the effects of alcohol and the above functions; however, tolerance is an indication of the body's adjustment to regular drinking and is a warning sign of alcohol abuse.
Sensation and Perception
|Women||Men||Women & Men|
|Small Dose||Increased enjoyment of foreplay; feelings of warmth; increased quality of orgasm||Increased arousal; control of premature ejaculation lost||Release of inhibitions; increased aggression; increased desire|
|Moderate Dose||Fewer or no orgasms; decreased quality of orgasms||Increased time needed for erection to form; difficulty maintaining erection; uncertain orgasm; decreased penile rigidity||Longer foreplay|
|Large Dose||No orgasms; lethargy; no lubrication||Erectile impotence, ejaculatory impotence; thoughtlessness; unpleasant or painful ejaculation; aggressiveness|
|Alcoholism||Loss of menstruation; frigidity; infertility||Loss of sexual satisfaction; erectile impotence; decreased testosterone; infertility; breast development; decreased body hair; shriveled testicles||Loss of sex drive|
Perhaps the most dangerous alcohol/drug interaction is related to synergism, in which the combined effect of two drugs taken together is greater than the sum of the effects of the two drugs alone. Mix alcohol, a CNS depressant, with another CNS depressant, and the pharmacologic effect on the body is multiplied or exaggerated. Sometimes the result is drowsiness and difficulty in walking, talking, driving, and thinking. Breathing and heart rate can be depressed to dangerous levels. Some combinations of alcohol with barbiturates, tranquilizers, and prescription painkillers can be fatal.
Drug interaction is the phenomenon that occurs when one or more drugs present in the body alter the actions or effects of another drug present in the body at the same time. Some of the interactions may be minor and some disastrous. The consequence of the interaction is the important thing to remember.
Alcohol is primarily a central nervous system depressant. When combined with other drugs with similar depression action on the central nervous system, an additive or synergistic effect occurs. This is the most important type of interaction between alcohol and other drugs.
|Drugs Interacting with Alcohol||Mechanism||Effect||Significance|
|Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Anacin-3, Panadol, etc.||Metabolism of drug > or < with chronic use of alcohol||> risk of liver impairment||Moderate|
|Antidiabetic agents||Interfaces with glycogen production in the liver; enhances the effect of diabetic medicines||Increased low blood sugar||Moderate|
|Antihistamines (Benadryl, Actifed, & most over-the-counter cold medicines contain antihistamines)||Enhances the effect of antihistamines||> sedation||Minor to moderate|
|Isoniazid (INH)||Metabolism of drug enhanced with use of alcohol||< INH effect||Moderate|
|Flagyl, griseofulvin, chloramphenicol||< metabolism of alcohol||Hypotension, flushing, vomiting||Minor|
|Aspirin and salicylates||> effect of medicine||damage to gastric mucosa||Moderate|
|Narcotic analgesics; Demerol, percodan, tylox, codeine, Tylenol #3, codeine cough syrups||> effect of medicine||> depression of central nervous system||MAJOR|
|Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, etc.||> effect of medicine||Damage to gastric mucosa||Minor|
|Sedative-hypnotics: barbiturates, benzodiazepines, others||Metabolism of drug enhanced with acute alcohol intoxication||> depression of central nervous system||MAJOR|
|Tranquilizers||> effect of medicine||Impaired coordination and > depression of central nervous system||Minor|
EFFECTS OF LONG-TERM ALCOHOL ABUSE
Prolonged, heavy consumption of alcoholic beverages can result in one or more serious, often life threatening consequences.
Blackouts are lapses in memory during intoxication; they are not a loss of consciousness. Whether lasting a few minutes or hours, blackouts are unpredictable but usually happen when the blood alcohol level is high. A blackout usually occurs after ingestion of large amounts of alcohol and for most social drinkers, it is a learning experience. Continued drinking patterns that produce blackouts indicate a high risk for alcohol problems.
What are the causes of a hangover?
Central Nervous System (CNS) Rebound
Alcohol has a depressant effect on the CNS. With abstinence, this depressant effect is removed and there is a "rebound" of sensitivity to stimuli. An area of the CNS particularly affected is the reticular activating system which oversees the general arousal level and CNS activity.
The congeners or chemicals added to color, flavor, preserve, or stabilize alcoholic beverages may cause headaches.
Alcohol suppresses the hormone regulating the amount of urine produced, therefore, too little of the hormone is released and the kidneys form excessive urine. The kidneys' capacity to reabsorb water is diminished and water is excreted from the body. Therefore, intoxication causes the body to lose water (including vitamins and minerals). This produces the sensation of thirst of "cotton mouth."
Depleted Body Blood Sugar/Glucose
Alcohol depletes the body of its blood sugar causing a hypoglycemic state. In this state there is a reduced concentration of blood sugar. The brain is deprived of its proper nourishment. Symptoms include hunger, weakness, nervousness, sweating, headache, and tremor.
Deprivation of Brain Oxygen
The brain is the organ most sensitive to alcohol. It also receives less oxygen when alcohol is present, which adds to the feeling of fatigue the following morning.
Stomach Irritant/Digestion Rebound
Alcohol is an irritant which produces the flow of gastric juices in the stomach lining, causing nausea and vomiting. The next morning, a "rebound effect" is produced as the stomach works extra hard to neutralize the gastric acid. This may cause an upset stomach.
Alcohol alters the neurochemical balance within the brain. Although some people fall asleep faster with a drink, alcohol depresses REM (Rapid Eye Movement or dreaming) sleep and causes more sleep disturbance later at night. REM sleep is an important component of a healthy sleep cycle. Even if people think they sleep well, the loss of REM sleep makes people want to sleep longer in the morning and would then feel tired during the day. Deprivation of REM sleep is what causes people to feel tired.
Alcohol is a vasodilator. It increases blood flow to the extremities. One reason for morning chills may be a rebound effect. As the blood vessels constrict, there is a reduced blood flow to the extremities, and therefore less warmth. These vascular changes have also been related to the hangover headaches. Migraine sufferers should avoid alcohol because use ma aggravate their tendency to vascular headaches.
Are there any cures for a hangover?
The simple cause is too much alcohol. The only prevention is to avoid drinking too much, too fast. There is no cure for a hangover. Once excessive drinking has taken place, only time will cure a hangover--none of the many popular home remedies have been shown to be cures.