Copyright Goodheart-Willcox Co., Inc. Chapter 9 Alcohol 275 Health Effects of Alcohol Use The effects of alcohol vary from person to person, depending on several factors (Figure 9.3). Even when people consume small amounts of alcohol, they experience minor effects. When people consume larger amounts of alcohol, they can face life-threatening health problems. The following sections describe some of the immediate and long-term health effects of using alcohol. Immediate Health Effects When someone drinks alcohol, the substance is quickly absorbed into the person’s bloodstream. The blood carries the alcohol to different parts of the body. When someone drinks a lot of alcohol in a short period of time, the body is unable to break down the alcohol fast enough. As a result, the alcohol builds up in the bloodstream. Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the percentage of alcohol that is in a person’s blood. People who have a BAC of 0.08 or above are considered legally impaired, also known as intoxicated or drunk. A person who is intoxicated shows substantial physical and mental impairments. Central Nervous System Alcohol affects every cell in the body and slows down the central nervous system, which consists of the brain and spinal cord. (You will learn more about the central nervous system in Chapter 17.) The central nervous system directs many functions in the body. When alcohol enters the central nervous system, it negatively affects those functions. Certain brain functions slow, chemical changes occur, and a person’s inhibition is reduced (Figure 9.4). Inhibition is the self-control that keeps people from taking dangerous risks. Gender Body weight Food consumption How fast you drink How much you drink Ethnicity Factors That Impact the Effects of Alcohol Figure 9.3 Because these factors change from person to person or from day to day, it is hard to predict the effect alcohol will have on a person’s body. Effects of Alcohol on Brain Function Frontal lobe Parietal lobe Occipital lobe Temperal lobe Cerebellum Brain stem Difficulty concentrating, changes in mood, reduced inhibition (self-control) Memory loss or blackout Impaired vision Low body temperature, frequent urination Drowsiness and slowed response rate Loss of balance and stumbling Figure 9.4 Alcohol has many effects on brain function that result in impaired physical and mental abilities. Which body system consists of the brain and spinal cord? Yoko Design/
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