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Drug Information > Alcohol

Alcohol is a legal depressant, a liquid obtained by fermentation of carbohydrates by yeast or by distillation. There are many different types of alcohol, but Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is the type of alcohol that is used to make alcoholic beverages.

Signs of Use:

Liquor bottles, beer cans, smell of alcohol, blood-shot eyes, restlessness, lack of coordination, impaired judgment, slurring of speech, lowered inhibitions, abnormal behavior including uncontrollable laughter and/or violence.


Due to alcohol lowering an individual's inhibitions, use can lead to embarrassing and/or dangerous situations.

Alcohol poisoning can happen if an individual drinks a large quantity of alcohol over a short amount of time. Even individuals with a high tolerance to alcohol can succumb to the effects of alcohol poisoning. Some of the signs of potential alcohol poisoning include unconscious or semi-consciousness, and cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin.

Adolescent consequences- Adolescents who drink before the legal age are more likely to become dependent, more likely to become sexually active (meaning increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases), more likely to experience major depression, and have a greater chance of experiencing long-term physical consequences.

Alcohol and Pregnancy- Women who are pregnant and consume alcohol run the risk of having the fetus develop fetal alcohol syndrome. Fetuses with this disease have smaller heads and brains, some degree of mental retardation, poor coordination, hyperactivity and abnormal facial features.

Alcohol and Women- Beside the risks if a woman is pregnant, alcohol has a greater impact on women than on men. Women who drink regularly have a higher risk of developing liver diseases than men who drink the same or even less. Women also absorb alcohol into their bloodstreams faster than men, but their bodies metabolize the alcohol at a slower rate, meaning the effects of alcohol will happen sooner and continue for a longer time for a woman than it will for a man.

Further Information

The NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) states that moderate alcohol use may be beneficial to users. Studies have shown that moderate drinkers are less likely to die from one form of heart disease than are people who do not drink any alcohol or who drink more. It is believed that these smaller amounts of alcohol help protect against heart disease by changing the blood's chemistry, thus reducing the risk of blood clots in the heart's arteries.

However, some people shouldn't drink at all. The list includes:

  • Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • People who plan to drive or engage in other activities that require alertness and skill such as using high-speed machinery
  • People taking certain over-the-counter medications
  • People with medical conditions that can be made worse by drinking
  • Recovering alcoholics
  • People under the age of 21


Alcohol can be detected via breath or saliva testing. Size, gender, physical condition, what an individual has consumed, how much sleep an individual had before drinking, what medications an individual is taking, and the actual alcohol content of the drink consumed all effect the detection period. The general rule of thumb is that one standard drink remains in the body for one hour. The standard is based upon 16 ounces of beer or wine cooler, or 4 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of liquor.