Alcohol Use in the United States: Trends in Consumption Video

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  • 0:01 Using Drugs
  • 0:36 Drugs and Alcohol
  • 2:18 Alcohol by the Numbers
  • 4:37 The Consequences
  • 5:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
You more than likely have had alcohol once in your life. At least that's what statistics point to. In fact, this lesson will be chock full of statistics about alcohol use and abuse in the United States.

Using Drugs

Enjoying an occasional glass of wine is considered a healthy habit to have by some people. Even if alcohol is considered to be a vice by others, thankfully this isn't the roaring 1920s in the U.S. and having a drink now and then in a safe manner will not land you in jail, unlike the use of illicit drugs. While using alcohol in this manner won't put you in prison, you'll learn in this lesson that its use may still have some unfortunate consequences when it, like any other drug, is abused.

Drugs and Alcohol

A drug, in a general sense, is a substance, other than food, that elicits intended and unintended effects within the body after its purposeful ingestion. That's a pretty wide definition, but it includes things like the medicines your doctor may give you. For instance, antibiotics have the intended effect of killing bacteria, but may cause side-effects (that are sometimes unpredictable) like secondary infections, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, and the like may make a person feel a certain way that is desirable to them, but they also cause everything from brain damage to coma to death. So, in light of that, it is therefore not very surprising that alcohol fits the definition of a drug. Alcohol, more precisely, is an intoxicating agent derived from yeast fermentation of things such as grains, starch, or sugar. Yeast, by the way, are tiny little organisms that are fungi.

Be that as it may, I want you to notice something for me: it's the word intoxicating in the definition of alcohol. It has the word 'toxic' in there for a reason. While some exceptions to this exist, alcohol by itself is not very conducive to a person's health when compared to much safer foods and drinks that provide the same benefits. In fact, alcohol has been shown to be harmful to the liver, heart, and even causes cancer. This is even truer if you drink a lot at one time or over a long period of time. Alcohol is a drug, a toxin, and a poison all rolled into one.

Alcohol by the Numbers

But I'm going to let the numbers speak for themselves. Alcohol is directly linked to causing nearly 80,000 deaths per year in America. Many times it's because the blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the amount of alcohol in a person's blood, is too high and people wreck their cars. Not only can the inebriated driver die as a result but so too can many innocent civilians.

Additionally, 60% of Americans aged 18 or over drink alcohol at least some of the time or routinely. 25% of Americans, however, do not drink any alcohol at all. But unfortunately, 7% of this country's population are heavy alcohol users. When it comes down specifically to college students, things don't look all that great either. Over 60% drink alcohol at least once a month, over 40% binge drink at least once per month, and 16% claim to be heavy drinkers.

Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as a pattern of alcohol use that increases a person's BAC to 0.08% or more. This equates to about four drinks for a woman and five drinks for a man within two hours. 75% of alcohol consumed by adults in this country is as a result of binge drinking.

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