Alcohol: Society’s Social Enigma

Beer poured in a bottle Maybe Al Capone had it right. No, we are not talking about his hideous crimes, but his (criminal’s and non-criminal’s) ingenuity of realizing that alcohol prohibition was not going to stop the average Joe or Jane from drinking this popular beverage, otherwise known to some as ‘booze’ or  ‘happy juice’.

In chemistry, alcohol is known as an organic compound. Technically speaking, when a hydroxyl functional group is combined with an atom of carbon, it forms alcohol. Let’s dig a little further into this subject and maybe shed some light on it. 


Ethanol is another name for this stimulant that is commonly found in alcoholic drinks. It is a biphasic drug and different levels of dosage can have varying effects on a person.

It is produced when the yeast ferments sugar in food particles. A known example is wine, which is made from sugar and grapes. Other instances include beer from sugar in malted barley, apple cider and vodka from potatoes and beets.

The content of alcohol varies depending on the type of drink. Fermented drinks like beer contain between 2%-6% of alcohol. This is why, if consumed casually, it does not make a person particularly inebriated. Wine has 8%-20% which makes it a stronger drink. 

On the other hand, drinks like vodka (40%-50%) and tequila (40%) are distilled and have considerably higher toxicity levels.


Consuming alcohol has an impact on a person’s state of mind. It is a depressant with sedative traits that affect the central nervous system and if consumed in high doses, it can diminish one’s vital functions.

Most consumers associate alcohol with pleasure since drinking small quantities helps improve their mood. How it affects an individual’s frontal lobe can be detrimental to health if taken in large quantities. Which begs the question, is alcohol bad for us?

We can look at the benefits and drawbacks of this intoxicant, which may help us to get an understanding of what makes us want this all inspiring beverage.


A commonly held belief among drinkers is that moderate consumption can actually have a positive influence on your health. This belief has been backed by a research conducted at Harvard University.

They accumulated data from over 100 independent studies and concluded that if consumed responsibly, it reduces the risk of diseases such as heart attacks by up to 40%. It also diminishes the possibility of clot-related strokes and other cardiovascular issues, but some drinks can have more positive health benefits than others.

Drinking alcohol increases good cholesterol in your body, which acts as a safeguard against heart disease. It contains high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which has a positive effect on our body.

Moreover, red wine contributes to a reduction in blood pressure since it contains polyphenols. Other health benefits include fighting the common cold. Many infants are given a teaspoon of brandy if they are suffering from influenza. This has been backed by a study at Carnegie Mellon University.

Researchers have also found that alcohol helps improve your sexual health and lower chances of getting long-term illnesses like dementia and diabetes but remember, these studies are based upon moderate drinking. Overdoing it, well, we all know the answer to that!


 drunk man on alcoholNow that we have elaborated the benefits, we can look at the downside of drinking alcohol – amd there are many. First and foremost, is it important to note that caution is advised when drinking because the more you drink, the greater the chance there is of issues rising, or should we say, there is more of a chance of just plain getting yourself in trouble, to say it mildly.

Many alcohol lovers are prone to heavy and binge drinking, which will be discussed later. If drinking sensibly can help avoid diseases, consuming overwhelming amounts can develop them. As the expression goes – too much of anything can have a negative effect on you.

For instance, drinking too much alcohol can lead to inflammation of the liver, a condition which is called alcoholic hepatitis. Typically caused by viruses, alcohol is identified as one of its major causes. If you are not careful, your liver may also be scarred for life, an issue known as cirrhosis. In addition, jaundice is directly related to excessive alcohol drinking.

Harvard University claims that binge drinking can lead to cancers affecting the breast, colon and of course, the liver. Moreover, alcohol is a known reason for weight gain. One example is beer, which is a calorie-heavy drink and lacks any nutritional value. If it is part of an unhealthy diet, it can cause drinkers to develop a ‘beer belly’ as well.

Drinking also affects your brain capacity. A frequent example is drunk driving. More commonly known as Driving under the Influence or DUI or DWI in the New York area. DUI can result in deadly consequences and we probably know of someone or know someone close to us who went down this road (pun intended). It is not a pleasant experience.

Binge drinking, which we referred to earlier, is a habit of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. It is a dangerous trend that does not help. If you habitually consume multiple cans or glasses of alcohol in a short time span, it damages the body and increases chances of getting a stroke and blood pressure. Teenagers and millennials are notorious for this and many end up paying the price.

Soft drinks

There are other beverages which have effects which can rival alcohol as well.

Soft drinks like Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew are usually comprised of the following: carbonated water, sweeteners, artificial color, phosphoric acid, caffeine and artificial flavors. The sweeteners have a high level of sugar in them.

It is crystal clear that this is not a healthy blend of ingredients at all. Soft drinks also have zero nutritional value. In other words, it is a hollow drink with empty calories and no apparent advantage. Caffeine is a diuretic. That means it causes a greater occurrence of urine. This, in turn, means that chances of dehydration are greater. Sodas are also weight gainers.

The only potential benefit of soft drinks is that it contains the aforementioned caffeine and elements of sugar, which can give you a lift if you’re low on energy. However, it is better to have fruits such as apples which have the same effect.

Furthermore, excess intake of sugar is quite detrimental. People often read the nutritional value of foods and consume it without thinking twice if the fat percentage is negligible. In such cases, it is important to note that the sugar level of such foods may be quite high, which is never a good idea.

A single, 350 milliliter can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar. That is equal to roughly 9 teaspoons of sugar. This means it is bad for your bones since it reduces the calcium level in your body.

Diet soda, which is advertised as having no sugar, is not a viable alternative either. They have an abundance of sweeteners, which leads to sugar cravings and potential weight gain.


William Hogarth - Gin Lane
Beer Street and Gin Lane, 1751 William Hogarth 1697 – 1764
The most obvious caveat from our discussion is that both alcohol and soft drinks have multiple drawbacks. However, in the case of the former, it has a number of health benefits too.

We have discussed the attributes, advantages, and disadvantages of alcohol in detail and the bottom line is simple. Be happy. Have fun and have a shot or two, but also be reasonable. Losing your cognitive abilities can put you in many places, none of which will make you proud. Additionally, you can become vulnerable to any number of crimes, including becoming a victim of sexual abuse. Other people’s lives may be put in jeopardy as well. Think about it.