Drinking alcoholic beverages is not new. Today, millions of people drink now and then to get a feeling of pleasure and relief of tension. It is such a familiar part of their life-style that many do not realize alcohol is a drug.
Alcoholic beverages in bottles and cans vary greatly in taste, use, cost, and the amount of alcohol they contain.
The fermentation process by which beer is made is known as brewing. Grain cereals such as wheat, barley, and rye are combined with yeast under the direction of a brew master. This person follows a special process often known only to him. Thousands
of different varieties of beer are produced in countries in many parts of the world. They vary in ingredients, taste, and percentage of alcohol, but most contain between three and six percent alcohol.
Wine making is a delicate art. Most wine is made from grapes that are grown under special conditions to produce the qualities that are most wanted in wine. The alcoholic content of beverage wines--wines that are drunk with meals--varies from
8 percent to 1r percent. Sherry, Madeira, and port are known as fortified wines and may have an alcoholic strength from 18 percent to 21 percent. In order to fortify wine, or increase the amount of alcohol in it, alcohol is added at the end of the fermentation process.
Distilled spirits, or liquor, are made by distilling the soft, pulpy mass known as mash that results when the original ingredients are fermentated to separate the alcohol and flavoring chemicals (congeners) from the residue and water. In this process, the fermented liquid is heated until it becomes a gas. The gas is collected and cooled. This makes the alcohol stronger. Gin, Scotch, vodka, whiskey, rum, and bourbon are common distilled spirits. Their alcohol content is measured as "proof," with one degree of proof meaning 0.5 percent alcohol. Most of these beverages are 80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol. People usually mix liquor with tonic, water, soda, or fruit juice.
One out of every three American adults say that alcohol abuse has brought trouble into their families either because of their own drinking habits or because of those of someone close. Today, estimates of the number of people who suffer from alcoholism reach about 12 million, an increase over estimates of recent years. The increase in the
amount of drinking is a growing concern for a number of reasons. Today, the number of high school students who get drunk at least once a month is more than twice as great as it was ten years ago. Recent reports show that many boys and girls are trying alcoholic beverages before they reach their teens and that some ten- to twelve-year-olds have alcoholic abuse problems. Unfortunately, most of these boys and girls tried alcohol before they knew much about it. Alcoholism is considered one of the most serious public health problems in the Unite States. About 65 out of every100 people will be in alcohol-related highway crashes in their lifetimes. About four million drinking teenagers are showing signs that they may develop serious alcohol-related problems.