Dr. Jennifer Merril, an alcohol addiction researcher from Brown University, asks, “Are you struggling with problems related to your alcohol use or even an alcohol addiction?” Maybe you tried quitting on your own, but it just didn’t seem to work. You may go a few days or weeks without using. But, before you know it, an unexpected setback causes you to retreat to your old habits.
Or possibly you’re worried about a loved one. Has their alcohol use negatively affected your family? Do they say they don’t have a problem or make excuses for their behavior, but you can see how it is slowly destroying their life?
Alcohol is a powerful, addictive substance. Even worse, it is readily available in just about any grocery, convenience, or corner store. This makes something as simple as driving down the street a trigger for using alcohol.
WHAT IS ALCOHOL?
Alcohol (ethyl alcohol or ethanol) is a legal intoxicating substance that is widely consumed in various forms like beer, wine, and hard liquor. It is produced when yeast ferments sugars and starches in different foods, such as when the sugar in grapes is fermented to make wine. The fermented product can also be distilled to make various spirits like rum, brandy, gin, tequila, vodka, and whiskey.
The history of voluntary alcohol use dates back several thousand years. Human interest in alcohol has not waned in modern times. Drinking alcohol is an inherent part of socializing and celebrations in many cultures around the world.
Alcohol is technically classified as a depressant,  because it depresses (slows down) the Central Nervous System, including brain functioning and neural activity. While the initial effects during a drinking event may be stimulating (e.g., “loosening up”, reducing social inhibitions), later effects during a drinking event, especially a heavy one, may be more sedating (e.g., slowed thinking and reaction times, feeling sleepy). Drinking alcoholic beverages in limited quantities is largely considered safe. But the fact that alcohol is a socially acceptable intoxicant makes it particularly dangerous. Many people start drinking socially with controlled consumption of alcohol but progress over time to problematic drinking patterns and/or addiction, which may be referred to by experts as an “alcohol use disorder”.