The type of alcohol that is consumed in beverages such as beer, wine, and liquor (sometimes referred to as "spirits") comes from the fermentation of different ingredients.
The fermentation process produces but the chemical composition of ethanol is different than that of other types, including isopropyl, the ingredient found in common rubbing alcohol or methanol, which is found in such products as mineral spirits or naphtha.
Different Forms of Alcoholic Beverages
As mentioned earlier, there are different types of alcoholic beverages. Beer contains different types of grains as well as sugar and other ingredients, while wine most often contains some type of fruit or fruit juice which has been allowed to ferment.
Liquor or "spirits" can include different types of grains as well as vegetables. For example, potatoes are sometimes used in the making of vodka.
Whiskey, brandy, rum, vodka, and gin are all types of liquor or "spirits". In the majority of these drinks, the alcohol content has been increased through distillation (a process whereby the beverage is heated so that the alcohol can be collected and concentrated).
Depending on the type of beverage, the ingredients can include grains (such as malt barley or rye for whiskeys, gin, and other types for vodka), or sugar cane or molasses (for rum). Other ingredients can be added for flavoring and other reasons, such as juniper or other berries for gin.
Not all alcoholic beverages are distilled—beer and wine, for example, are not. Some alcoholic beverages, such as vodka, are distilled but not aged. Any or all of these techniques, as well as the type of beverage, can make a difference in the alcohol content (the amount of ethanol that is present in a beverage).
Beer, for example, can contain anywhere from less than 0.5% (most often found in beer products labeled "non-alcoholic") to as high as 9% (found in some types of ale). The average alcohol content in beer products is usually between 4% and 6%.
Wine is generally considered to fall into one of three categories: table wine, sparkling wine, and fortified wine. Types of wine in each category can contain anywhere from 8% alcohol content to as high as 22% alcohol content.
Most table and sparkling wines contain between 8% and 14% alcohol content; fortified wines, which include port wines as well as others, usually contain the higher amounts of alcohol.
The percentage has to do with the amount of alcohol content found in a certain number of milliliters of alcohol product. For example, a 100 ml bottle of wine that is said to contain 8% alcohol content means that 8 ml of alcohol is present in the 100 ml of wine in the bottle.
Of course, the alcohol content will also vary with the amount of beverage you consume. For example, if your favorite beer contains 5% alcohol in a 12-oz. serving, then the alcohol content is going to increase with each beer consumed.
Effects of Alcohol Consumption
As alcoholic beverages are consumed, the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream. The amount of alcohol consumed, as well as other factors, including how much or how little one has eaten, as well as an individual's tolerance level to alcohol (which can be increased the more one drinks) is what causes intoxication ("getting drunk").
Signs of intoxication include slurred speech, difficulty maintaining balance, and blurred vision. In extreme cases of intoxication, loss of consciousness can occur.
Ethanol can be addictive, and problems can arise from this. "Social" or "moderate" drinking; that is, consuming alcohol in controlled amounts and only at certain times, such as gatherings or on the weekend may be possible for some people; for others, it can lead to a full-blown dependence on alcohol.
An increased tolerance to the effects of alcohol—in other words, having to consume more in order to feel a "buzz" can be one of the first signs of addiction. An increase in the amount of alcohol consumed or the frequency in which one consumes it can also be a warning signal that addiction is occurring or imminent.
If you feel that you have developed an alcohol addiction or are in danger of doing so, you can seek help. There are programs designed to help you recognize the signs of addiction. If you see those signs, and are ready to admit that you have a problem, you can receive help at a rehab center 800-654-0987.
The help can come in the form of inpatient and outpatient services, which include individual and group counseling sessions. In addition, some rehab centers offer medical help for alcohol withdrawal, which can be very unpleasant, both physically and psychologically.
The most important thing a rehab center can give is support. You do not have to fight alcohol addiction alone; emotional, physical, and mental support is available.