Alcohol is a drug that is contained in a variety of beverages, and which has profound effects on the consumer, as well as on society.
Alcohol is a poison and depressant, although it is not as toxic as a number of other alcohols, some of which can result in death if consumed in even small quantities. In particular rubbing alcohol is not beverage alcohol and should never be drunk.
Alcohol has been used by man for thousands of years, most notably in wine and beer. Alcohol is produced by the actions of yeast on sugars. Sources of sugars for production of alcoholic beverages include honey (mead), apples (cider, Calvados), grapes (wine, brandy, occasionally vodka), other fruits (fruit wine, eaux-de-vie), potatos (not drunk directly, but distilled into vodka), sugar cane (sugar wine, rum), table sugar (mostly used in making moonshine), and grains (beer, whiskey, vodka). Liquors, such as vodka, whiskey, and gin are distilled to produce a beverage of a higher alcohol content.
According to many studies, life expectancy is greatest for men who consistently consume 1-2 American standard drinks of alcohol (0.6-1.2 ounces absolute alcohol) per day as adults, and for women who consume 1 standard drink per day. However, such studies have been criticised for failing to distinguish between non-drinkers who have never drunk alcohol and non-drinkers who are reformed alcoholics whose already-affected health can skew the results. Further, mortality increases rapidly with consistent consumption of larger amounts of alcohol, and so individuals who are unable to drink in moderation are better off abstaining entirely than overindulging. In addition, both the addictive and thirst-creating qualities of alcohol encourage excessive consumption.
Too much alcohol in the bloodstream results in alcohol poisoning, which can result in immediate death. Excessive long-term alcohol consumption can lead to degeneration of multiple organs within the body and an early death.
Cost to society
An Australian study published in 2013 found that direct alcohol-related costs exceeded government revenue from alcohol taxation by a ratio of two-to-one. The study found that alcohol-related costs incurred by the criminal justice system totalled $2.958 billion, by the health system $1.686 billion, from traffic accidents $3.662 billion, and by loss of productivity $6.046 billion, for a total of $14.325 billion. This compares with a total of $5.475 billion in tax revenue from alcohol-related taxes plus $1.601 billion from the standard Goods and Services Tax (GST). This means that direct costs of alcohol to society exceeded government revenue from alcohol by a ratio of 2.03:1, or 2.62:1 if GST is ignored, on the basis that people switching from buying alcohol to buying other goods and services would be paying that tax anyway.
Alcohol in religion
- Christianity does not prohibit alcohol, but there are multiple references in the Bible relating to the harmfulness of drunkenness.
- Islam generally prohibits alcohol.
- Mormonism stresses abstinence from alcohol.
- Judaism does not prohibit alcohol.