Alcohol (ethanol) as a drug of intentional use has existed in cultures across the world dating back to as early as 10,000 BC where Stone Age jugs were used to intentionally ferment fruit for the purpose of human consumption. Its psychoactive properties were taken advantage of in medicine as shown in the Hebrew Bible which recommends giving alcoholic drinks to those who are infirmed to decrease the sense of misery and despair. Modern uses of alcohol continues to include its presentation as a sacrament within the Catholic Church who considered it “a gift of God” to be used in moderation for pleasure and enjoyment while at the same time viewing drunkenness as “sinful” behavior. Modern drug treatment and our concepts of addiction stem largely from Alcoholics Anonymous which was the original twelve-step model for addressing what was considered to be an allergy to alcohol.
Alcohol continues to be closely related to violence and harm in society due to its inhibitory mechanisms on the central nervous system, rational choice making, and diminished consideration of future consequences. Alcohol is a factor in 40% of all violent crimes and 50% of all sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both. Despite this, alcohol continues to be one of the most widely used recreational drugs in the world with 89% of adults having tried alcohol and over 50% consuming it monthly.
Alcohol has an effective to lethal dose ratio (ED/LD) of 1 to 20. It is destructive to tissue at high and consistent doses and results in serious physiological and psychological harm when used excessively over time. These effects have not been demonstrated with low to moderate use. The potential benefit to the cardiovascular system and blood pressure reduction has recently been demonstrated to be offset by the increased potential of gastrointestinal cancers that result from using alcohol. About one in eight people will experience a substance related disorder with alcohol in their lifetime.
Please take great care with this drug. Its popularity and promotion in modern society greatly skew the actual harms and violence associated with it. Alcohol is inherently more destructive to the body and society than other drugs of recreation like cannabis (in places where prohibition is not a factor) particularly when consumed in excessive quantities which often go unchecked and unchallenged due to the normalization of alcohol in Western culture. At any given time, an average of 40% of hospital beds (when discounting for maternity and intensive care) are being used for alcohol related disorders.