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What Is Alcohol?

Alcohol has a long history. It has been used in religious ceremonies, as a medicine, and socially for thousands of years. Laws and codes of conduct governing its use and misuse have been a part of human culture throughout history. Some people can use alcohol occasionally and responsibly, while for others the effect of alcohol can be devastating. Herein lies the complexity of alcohol use.

Alcohol is a psychoactive substance, which means that it has the ability to change consciousness and to alter perceptions and behavior. The alcohol found in beverages is known as ethanol or ethyl alcohol. This is the only type of alcohol that is safe to consume, and then only in small quantities.

While there is much controversy over the many problems associated with alcohol, the fact is that a large segment of the population chooses to consume alcoholic beverages. Many people begin drinking during early adolescence. The use of alcohol by college students is a major problem. People in their 20's and 30's comprise the group most often arrested for drunkenness and for driving while intoxicated. However, even senior citizens are not immune to alcohol abuse.

Approximately half of all alcohol is consumed by just ten percent of the drinking population. A host of social issues plagues this group of heavy drinkers. Lost work time, family pathologies, and medical factors are just a few of the complications associated with alcohol abuse.