Why do people drink alcohol?

Alcohol is a recreational drug and a depressant. Depressants or sedatives depress neural activity, slow down bodily functions, enhance positive feelings and heighten alertness. They slow down mental processes and behaviours. Alcohol is the most widely used depressant of which the effects were known about 10,000 years ago.

Alcohol abuse is not the same as alcoholism because it doesn’t include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control over drinking, or physical dependence. Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that results in one or more of the following situations: a failure to fulfil major work, school, or home responsibilities; drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery; having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk; and continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the drinking.

Although alcohol abuse is basically different from alcoholism, alcoholics also experience many effects of alcohol abuse.

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, is a disease that includes four symptoms:

  • Craving, a strong need, or compulsion, to drink.
  • Loss of control, the inability to limit drinking on any occasion.
  • Physical dependence, after prolonged and severe intake of alcohol physiological dependence and withdrawal occur. Dependence is when the body can’t do without a drug because it has adjusted to its presence. The symptoms include, insomnia, increased sweating, trembling, nausea, fever, restlessness and hallucinations. In some cases, withdrawal produces such a shock to the body that death occurs. There is no doubt that tolerance develops and in some cases dependence does occur.
  • Tolerance, the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol. Alcoholism has little to do with willpower; they are in the grip of a powerful craving, or uncontrollable need, for alcohol that overrides their ability to stop drinking. This need can be as strong as the need for food or water.

Government guidelines state that men should drink no more than three to four units per day and women no more than two to three units per day. However, some medical experts believe these levels are too high, and recommend no more than three units a day for men and two a day for women.

The strength of an alcoholic drink is indicated by the percentage of alcohol by volume (ABV). A unit is 8 grams of pure alcohol, regardless of the amount of liquid it’s contained in.

One unit is equal to:

  • About half a pint (300ml) of ordinary-strength lager, beer or cider,
  • A single measure of spirit or a small glass of sherry or port
  • A small glass of wine.

“Over 90% of adults in Britain drink Alcohol to some extent.” (Gross, Richard and McIlveen, Rob (1998) Psychology, A new Introduction. Hodder and Stoughton. London) About 120 million people worldwide are classified as dependant on alcohol. In the UK, younger people more than older people and men more than women are more likely to exceed the recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption patterns do not differ greatly by social class.

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Some people do not drink alcohol because they do not like it or they feel that it has nothing but a negative effect on them. Some people cannot drink alcohol as they have a medical reason like a liver disease or an inability to process the alcohol that they take in. Certain religious people, like Hindus and Muslims, do not drink as it is usually written in their religious scripts that they must not do so.

It seems extremely important for young people to gain peer acceptance and adult status. This is one of the main reasons why ...

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