Alcohol is one of the most widely used drugs in the world.

One drink contains 12 grams (.5 ounce) of pure alcohol. Examples of standard drinks include:

  • 12 ounces of beer or wine cooler
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (such as vodka, gin or scotch)

Alcohol is absorbed quickly into your bloodstream. How fast it is absorbed will depend on the type and amount of food in your stomach. Foods high in fat and carbohydrates will slow how fast alcohol is absorbed.

Effects of alcohol use

Alcohol can cause the following:

  • hangover
  • bad breath
  • impaired judgment and behavior
  • altered perceptions and emotions
  • distorted hearing and coordination
  • blurred or distorted vision
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • shakiness
  • anxiety

Alcohol use can cause liver disease, heart disease, some forms of cancer and pancreatitis.

Signs that you have a drinking problem

Alcohol-related health or behavioral problems indicate that you may have a problem with alcohol use.

Too much alcohol can affect your health, causing::

  • blackouts
  • ongoing abdominal pain
  • high blood pressure
  • sleep disorders
  • depression
  • liver problems
  • sexual function problems

Alcohol can affect your behavior and cause:

  • family problems
  • legal problems
  • poor attendance or performance at work or school
  • accidents
  • injuries

Signs that you are dependent on alcohol

You may be dependent on alcohol if you:

  • think about drinking most of the time or have a strong urge to drink
  • can't stop drinking once you start
  • drink to prevent withdrawal symptoms that develop when you don't drink (tremors, nausea, sweating or mood swings)
  • have to drink more than you used to to feel the affects of alcohol
  • change plans so you can drink
  • drink in the morning to "steady your nerves"

First Published: 11/15/2012
Last Reviewed: 11/15/2012

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