What is alcohol?
- Alcohol is a depressant and is the most commonly used and abused drug in the United States.
- Alcoholic beverages contain ethyl alcohol, which is formed by the reaction of yeast cells on the carbohydrates of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
- Types of alcohol include beer, wine, liquor, and liqueur
How much alcohol is in one drink?
Because different drinks contain varying amounts of pure alcohol, you should be aware of the proportion of alcohol in everything you drink. A 12-ounce beer (5% alcohol by volume) has the same amount of alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor (40% alcohol) or a 5-ounce glass of wine (13% alcohol).
What are some effects of alcohol on the body?
- Short term effects that may occur after light to moderate drinking:
- Loss of inhibitions
- Loss of judgment
- A buzz feeling
- Loss of coordination
- Blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Increased aggression (may lead to interpersonal problems)
- Short term effects that may occur after moderate to heavy drinking
- Decreased heart rate
- Slower respiration
- Loss of taste and smell
- Inability to feel pain
- Short-attention span
- Memory problems
- Sleep interference
- Sexual dysfunction (loss of sensation, temporary impotence)
- Vision problems (light sensitivity, color impairment, blurred vision)
- Long term effects of drinking alcohol
- Poor nutrition
- Brain damage
- Liver damage
- Damage of all internal organs
- Poor relationships
- Loss of job or property
What is BAC?
BAC stands for Blood Alcohol Content, and is the number of milligrams of alcohol per milliliter in your bloodstream. In Maryland, the legal definition of drunkenness is a BAC of 0.08.
If you are a 120 lb. woman who drinks four drinks in one hour, your BAC will be 0.17. If you are a 160 lb. man who consumes 5 drinks in one hour, your BAC will be 0.14. Of 100 people with a BAC greater than 0.4, statistics show that one will die.
What is Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning (also known as acute alcohol intoxication) occurs when the amount of alcohol circulating in the bloodstream is so high that the body considers it a poison. Alcohol is a depressant, and as it circulates throughout the major internal organs (heart, lungs, brain, etc), it slows down the heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. When a large amount reaches the brain, the brain will automatically shutdown, and will render a person in a state of unconsciousness. There is little difference between the amount of alcohol necessary to make someone unconscious, and the amount necessary to kill them. Should the body of an unconscious person continue to metabolize the alcohol in the stomach, they run the risk of irreversible brain damage, or death.
- Signs of Alcohol Poisoning:
(If someone exhibits even one of these signs, they may need medical assistance)
- Less than 8-9 breaths per minute
- Bluish skin, cold or clammy skin
- A strong odor of alcohol (from mouth or clothing)
- If you are with someone who is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, call for emergency
medical assistance (410-778-7810 Public Safety or 911). Never leave the person, unless
you need to call for help or to get assistance. While waiting for medical help, here
are a few things you can do to help the intoxicated person:
- Try to wake the person by calling out their name and lightly pinching their skin
- Turn the person on his/her side to prevent choking and suffocation by their vomit
- Monitor their breathing, count how many breaths per minute are taken
- Monitor the skin color and body temperature
- Ways to prevent alcohol poisoning and intoxication:
- Do not play drinking games
- Do not drink out of a bong
- Do eat food before drinking
- Do drink slowly (sip don’t chug)
- Do space your drinks (no more than one drink per hour)
- Do substitute soda, juice, or water while drinking
- Do set a limit, and STICK TO IT!
What would you do if you are worried about a friends drinking behaviors?
When your friend’s drinking behavior endangers his or her own well-being, or the welfare of others, you may decide to discuss the issue with your friend. Here are some guidelines for approaching a friend whom you are worried about:
- Set aside time for private conversation. Make sure you have the complete attention of your friend in a comfortable environment, when neither of you is under the influence of alcohol. Without being critical or judgmental, raise the issue of your friend’s drinking habits and your desire to help improve the situation.
- Plan what to say. Before you meet with your friend, think about what you want to say to him and how you should say it. You can rehearse with another concerned friend or counselor, and anticipate possible responses (most likely defensive). Research what counseling you can recommend to your friend, but don’t push the information on him if he is not ready to meet with a professional.
- Listen. Allow your friend to speak candidly, and respond with compassion and without judgment.
- Avoid accusation; remain calm. Accusing your friend of having a problem will put her on the defensive and she will not listen to your concern with an open mind. To avoid causing your friend to take a defensive stance, point to specific behavior that affects you. For example, “When I saw you throwing up last night I was really worried.” There’s nothing in this statement that your friend can argue against. However, if tension arises and you start getting frustrated, don’t continue the conversation.
- Anticipate denial. Your friend will naturally react defensively to what he perceives as criticism. Do not force him to seek professional help that he does not want. Let him know you are available to discuss the subject another time. Problems with alcohol abuse may take years to solve, but broaching the topic is an important first step.
- Meet with a counselor to discuss your concerns. Even though your friend may not be ready to face her drinking problem, you may want to talk with a professional. The pain and stress caused by seeing a friend in distress may be reduced through conversation with Beth Anne Langrell the Alcohol and Other Drug Educator at 410-778-7277 or Bonnie Fisher the Director of Counseling at 410-778-7261.