Alcohol's wide availability makes it relatively easy to obtain. Alcohol use is also seen as generally acceptable in people who are over 21—even though it can be dangerous at any age.
Companies that sell alcohol bombard the public with advertisements for beer, wine, liquor, and other beverages. Television commercials and magazine ads often show drinkers in beautiful outdoor settings, at fun-filled parties, or enjoying sports. Although the ads never show underage drinking, the scenarios tend to appeal to teens as much as to adults.
Usually the message accompanying an alcohol ad says nothing about the product. Unlike ads for some drugs, alcohol ads are not required to list negative side effects. Instead, the ads promote a one-sided image of drinkers as athletic, healthy, and successful. The ads give the false impression that drinking will make you more popular and attractive.
A variety of factors affect a drinker's BAC. The rate of alcohol consumption, the gender and size of the drinker, and how much food is in the stomach all affect BAC.
Rate of Consumption A person's liver chemically breaks down, or metabolizes, alcohol at a fairly constant rate. That rate is about one half to one ounce of alcohol per hour—the approximate amount of alcohol in one can of beer, one shot of liquor, or one glass of wine. Therefore, people who have a few drinks in one hour have a higher BAC than people who drink the same amount over several hours.
Gender At the same rate and amount of alcohol consumption, males generally will have a lower BAC than females. This is because, for males, a larger portion of the alcohol gets metabolized in the stomach before it enters the bloodstream. In addition, the liver is more efficient at metabolizing alcohol in males.
Body Size In general, smaller people—by weight and height—feel the effects of alcohol more than larger people. They will have a higher BAC after a similar number of drinks.
Amount of Food in the Stomach Drinking on an empty stomach increases the rate of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream. A higher BAC will result.
During this stage, alcoholics rapidly lose their mental, emotional, and physical health. Because their entire lives revolve around drinking, they become isolated from society. Late-stage alcoholics also experience reverse tolerance for alcohol, a condition in which less and less alcohol causes intoxication.
Serious health problems, including malnutrition, liver and brain damage, cancer, lung disease, and heart disease, are common among alcoholics. Without medical and psychological help, an alcoholic may die.