Fermentation Beer yeasts produce alcohol content up to about 7%. Wine yeasts produce alcohol content up to about 15%. Yeasts used to produce distilled spirits (“liquor”) can produce somewhat higher levels of alcoholic content. Fermentation stops when the yeast produces toxic alcohol levels in which it cannot live. –Brewers and vintners may stop the process for flavor or other purposes before the yeast poisons itself.
Beer and Wine Beer and wine are the end products of the fermentation process. Typically, the fermented solution will be filtered then aged to produce the desired flavors and other qualities. Higher alcohol content makes a “rougher” taste and palate, destroying desirable subtle flavors and qualities. So these products often have a lower alcohol level. They are still potent intoxicants.
Distilled Spirits To produce distilled spirits, the fermented solution is placed in a still where it is heated. The alcohol, which is more volatile than the other components, boils off first, at lower temperatures, and is captured by cooling the vapor. Most liquors are produced in industrial stills like that pictured here, although some are produced in colorful copper “pot” stills—single malt Scotch whiskeys, for instance.
Distilled Spirits Once distilled, beverage alcohol may be immediately bottled or further processed by filtering, charcoal conditioning, and ageing in barrels or casks. Ethanol used for fuels is “denatured” by adding methyl alcohol, or other distasteful, toxic chemicals to discourage use as a beverage. Once the processing and ageing are completed, the spirits are bottled. “Proof” is the term applied to describe the percentage of alcohol in the beverage, and is exactly ½ the alcohol percentage. 100 proof liquor, therefore, is 50% alcohol.
Alcohol’s Effect on the Human Body Alcohol is absorbed quickly and readily into the blood stream from the stomach. It is distributed to the entire body in this way. It alters the body’s regulation of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that affects many nervous system functions, most significantly “reward behaviors”, which reinforce positive feelings for food, water, sex, and other basic survival behaviors. Researchers believe that the altered dopamine processing is a major factor in the positive high most feel while drinking.
Acetylcholine Another important neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, is found in all sections of the human nervous system. Importantly, it is the only neurotransmitter found in the somatic nervous system, which is responsible for voluntary muscular movements. Acetylcholine is also found in the central nervous system, the peripheral nervous system, and the autonomic nervous system.
Alcohol’s Effect on the Human Body Acetylcholine surrounds nerve cells, and facilitates transmission of impulses from one nerve cell to another. Alcohol can displace acetylcholine, block nerve receptors, alter brain membranes, metabolize brain enzymes, and diminish neuron activity, among other effects. Alcohol’s attack on the somatic nervous system is a major reason is why drunks stagger, fall down, are clumsy, and manifest many other physical symptoms—the alcohol has caused partial loss of their muscles.
Inebriation Alcohol causes abnormal nervous system functions, creating the generic term “inebriation.” Because of the wide-spread effects of alcohol on the body, inebriation is a collection of many impairments. Mood alteration— “happy drunk”, or “mean drunk”. Motor control degradation, stumbling, clumsiness, etc. Cognitive alteration—slowed thinking, reaction times Visual alteration, blurred vision, distortion, degraded iris (light admittance control) function. Significant impairment occurs well before the “falling-down-drunk” stage is reached.
Body’s Reaction to Alcohol Your body recognizes alcohol for what it is—Poison! Your body uses all its available systems to eliminate the alcohol. Metabolism Excretion (urination) Evaporation (respiration) Tears and perspiration (small amounts)
Blood Alcohol Percent No surprise that the more alcohol you drink, the more of it gets into your bloodstream. And that the more alcohol in your blood stream, the more impairment your body will endure. Medicine has established a scale of observable effects based on blood alcohol content. The scale is expressed as “grams percent” which is a ratio of the volume of alcohol per unit of blood.
Effects of Blood Alcohol Concentrations (BAC). 02%Feelin’ good! Minor clumsiness, may feel hot, be a bit tense.. 05%Excitation! Really in the groove, party boy/girl.. 08%High as a kite! Speak loudly, exaggerate movements. LEGALLY DUI/DWI..10%The “happy” or “mean” drunk appears. Loss of muscle and emotional control..20%Double vision, may fall asleep, cannot speak coherently..35%--.40% Comatose, completely unconscious. Breathing is impaired and slowed. Brain damage and death are distinct possibilities. >.40%At least 50% of humans will die from this dose of alcohol.