Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: November 27, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412953948 | Print ISBN: 9781412928168 | Online ISBN: 9781412953948| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Marcia Russell & Thomas K. Greenfield
Beverage alcohol results from fermentation of substances containing simple sugars and is catalyzed by yeast. Given that substances containing sugar and yeast occur widely in nature, alcohol was ‘discovered’ early and often in the development of civilization. The intoxicating properties of alcohol have contributed to its widespread use, as have its medicinal properties. However, alcohol is one of few substances voluntarily consumed in amounts approaching those causing coma and death. Acute overconsumption can lead to unintentional alcohol poisoning and increase the likelihood of accidental injuries. Chronic overconsumption can cause social, legal, and medical problems, including psychiatric disorders. Thus, misuse of alcohol represents substantial suffering by individuals and a major societal burden. This entry reviews the epidemiology of alcohol use, alcohol problems, alcohol abuse and dependence, and alcoholrelated health consequences. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, enters the bloodstream, and is distributed in the body water compartment. Most alcohol ...