Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) About Alcohol

Question:  What is alcohol?

Answer:  The alcohol that is consumed is ethyl alcohol (ethanol) and is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars and starches.  Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant drug and ethanol is the intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor.

Question:  What is a “standard drink” of alcohol?

Answer:  A standard alcohol drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol (0.6 ounces):

  • 12-ounces of Beer or Cooler
  • 8-ounces of Malt Liquor
  • 5-ounces of Wine
  • 1.5-ounces or “shot” of Distilled Spirits/Liquor (e.g., rum, gin, vodka, or whiskey).

Note:  These are approximate, as different brands and types of alcoholic beverages vary in their actual alcohol content.

Question:  Isn’t beer or wine safer to drink than liquor?

Answer:  No.  One 12-ounce beer has about the same amount of alcohol as one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of liquor.  What matters is the amount of alcohol consumed, not the type of alcoholic drink.

Question:  How does alcohol affect a person?

Answer:  As a central nervous system depressant drug, alcohol is rapidly absorbed by the stomach and small intestine into the bloodstream, and then circulated to every organ in the body (including the brain).

Question:  How does alcohol leave the body?

Answer:  Once absorbed into the bloodstream, the Kidneys eliminate 5% of alcohol in the urine, the Lungs exhale 5% of alcohol (detectable by breathalyzer) and the Liver breaks down the remaining 90% of alcohol.  Alcohol is broken down (metabolized) by the liver at the average rate of one standard drink per hour and nothing can speed this up, including drinking coffee.

Question:  How do I know if it’s okay to drink alcohol or how much?

Answer:  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that if you choose to drink alcohol, do not exceed 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men.

According to the Dietary Guidelines, the following people should not drink alcohol:

  • Children and adolescents under the age of 21.
  • Individuals of any age who cannot limit their drinking.
  • Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.
  • Individuals who plan to drive a car, operate machinery, or take part in other activities that require attention, skill, or coordination.
  • Individuals taking prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol.
  • Individuals with certain medical conditions.