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Alcohol

Brief Description

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), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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Effects

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

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Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Alcohol for 8th Graders, 10th Graders, and 12th Graders; 2013 (in percent)*
Drug Time Period 8th Graders 10th Graders 12th Graders
Alcohol Lifetime 27.80 52.10 68.20
Past Year 22.10 47.10 62.00
Past Month 10.20 25.70 [39.20]

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National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Trends in Prevalence of Alcohol for Ages 12 or Older, Ages 12 to 17, Ages 18 to 25, and Ages 26 or Older; 2012 (in percent)*
Drug Time Period Ages 12 or Older Ages 12 to 17 Ages 18 to 25 Ages 26 or Older
Alcohol Lifetime 82.30 [32.40] 84.40 88.10
Past Year 66.70 [26.30] 77.40 69.90
Past Month 52.10 12.90 60.20 55.60

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This page was last updated December 2012

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APA style citation

National Institute of Drug Abuse (2012). Alcohol Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/alcohol

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