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Thinking about Drinking

Alcohol surrounds us. It is so much a part of our daily lives that we may not even notice how frequently we are exposed to it directly or indirectly. Beer commercials interrupt our favorite television programs; advertisements for wine pop up in the magazines we read. Billboards promoting a particular brand of liquor are plastered around our sports stadiums. In some states, beer and wine are sold in grocery stores and 24-hour convenience markets next to snacks and soft drinks.

Alcohol plays an important role in many celebrations. Champagne is used to toast a bride and groom at their wedding. Family parties may feature beer and wine. New Year's Eve parties offer the opportunity to mark the end of one year and the beginning of another with a drink in your hand.

Alcohol also has a significance in many ceremonies. In some religions, wine plays a symbolic role in certain sacred holidays and celebrations. In some cultures, wine and beer are regularly consumed as part of the family meal and a dinner is considered incomplete without this important element.

With all of these different customs and functions, alcohol presents a complex picture. It is important to remember that alcohol is a drug—a drug that can prove addictive and that alters the way your brain functions.

Alcohol plays an important and positive role in many celebrations and ceremonies. Alcohol is also a drug that affects the brain and body. Understanding and weighing the costs and benefits of alcohol use are essential for anyone thinking about drinking.

WHAT IS ALCOHOL?

Alcohol is defined as a colorless liquid obtained either synthetically or naturally, through the fermentation of certain carbohydrates (that is, transformation of carbohydrates to alcohol by means of enzyme activity). The colorless liquid

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