Types of Alcohol and Alcoholic Drinks
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The available data indicates that every day, throughout the world, not just the United States of America, millions of individuals engage in the consumption of alcoholic beverages of different kinds. From those millions of individuals, approximately 28.3 million people in the U.S. aged 12 and older have been medically diagnosed with a form of alcohol use disorder, or AUD. Among those almost thirty million individuals, there are those struggling with severe, moderate, and mild forms of alcoholism.1
The most severe forms of AUD, also known as complete alcohol dependence, can completely alter an individual’s life, leading to inability to control their intake despite all the negative personal and professional, physical and psychological consequences. This condition can lead to occupation and social impairment, serious health problems, and ultimately death. In fact, according to the information available from NIAAA, or National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 95,000 individuals die from alcohol-induced consequences each year, making this the third most prominent preventable cause of premature death across the nation.1, 2
Without adequate treatment, alcoholism can be fatal. However, the same holds true for the lack of knowledge on the different types of alcoholic beverages available and their potential for causing negative effects on a person’s medical well-being. This is why it’s important to be familiar with the different types of alcohol and alcoholic beverages and their characteristics.3
What Are the Different Types of Alcohol?
Alcohol represents the primary active ingredient in a wide range of extremely popular drinks around the world and across the United States. Liquors, spirits, beer, and wine are all some of the different types of alcoholic beverages that contain varying degrees of alcohol. It is the substance of alcohol that leads to the development of a state of intoxication known as inebriation, or drunkenness.3
However, while many individuals who partake in the consumption of alcoholic beverages are familiar with different beverages, not many are as familiar with the different types of the chemical substance known as alcohol, its composition, and the negative effects it can produce. There are several main types of alcohol:4
Otherwise known as isopropanol, this type of alcohol is produced from propylene gas and features strong disinfecting characteristics. This alcohol is a frequent ingredient in a wide range of cleaning products, especially useful for the process of sterilization. Most frequently, the use of isopropyl alcohol is for household purposes, for example electronic disinfectants, as well as various cleaning solutions.4
Owing to its innate anti-bacterial characteristics, this type of alcohol can also serve as a medical antiseptic. Finally, it also has an inhalative use, providing assistance with postoperative nausea. This alcohol is unsafe for human consumption due to its numerous toxic effects when ingested in larger quantities. Some of the symptoms of isopropyl poisoning include dizziness, low blood pressure, flushing, respiratory depression, and vomiting.4
Other names for this type of alcohol are wood alcohol and methanol. This form of alcohol represents an industrial-strength solvent widely implemented in the manufacturing of printing ink, antifreeze, paint removers, and other compounds. It’s also used in the production of formaldehyde, methane, and acetone as the reactant.4
Methanol, together with its vapors, is extremely flammable and requires special attention during transportation, use, and storage. It’s similar in odor and appearance to ethanol, but it’s far more toxic. Intaking as little as ten milliliters can cause permanent blindness, while intaking thirty milliliters can induce coma and ultimately death.4
This is a chemical essence found in every alcoholic beverage on the planet. This is the only form of alcohol which is completely safe for human consumption. This type of alcohol is commonly used for drinks due to its favorable effects on behavior and mood, at least in small amounts. Ethanol causes depression of the central nervous system by enhancing neurotransmitter impact on the GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) present in the brain.4
The state of drunkenness causes feelings of happiness and euphoria. However, there are also numerous negative effects of continual alcohol intake, such as loss of sensory and motor function, cognitive impairment, and memory issues.4
Bacteria or yeast convert sugars into ethanol through the process known as fermentation. These sugars originate from grapes, wheat, barley, and other fruit and grain depending on the type of alcoholic drink produced.4
Rubbing alcohol is a form of either ethanol-based liquids or isopropyl alcohol in its diluted form. These types of liquids have the primary use of a topical antiseptic alongside their varied industrial and household application. Rubbing alcohol contains approximately 70% of pure isopropyl. This type of alcohol is completely unsafe for any form of human consumption and it doesn’t contain the ethyl alcohol found in different alcoholic beverages.4
What Is the Difference Between Distilled and Fermented Alcohol?
The process of creating alcoholic beverages is essential for understanding its different types and its negative effects on an individual’s health. The two main types of alcohol production used for the creation of beverages are fermentation and distillation.5
Fermentation is the process used for the production of alcoholic beverages with a lower percentage of alcohol in them when compared with distilled alcoholic beverages. Fermentation is used for making beer, wine, cider, and other similar types of alcohol. It refers to the process of using forms of yeast to convert sugars into alcohol. Fermentation is typically followed by distillation to create stronger alcoholic beverages.5
Distillation refers to the process of purifying a substance, in this case alcohol, by extracting pure substances from ethyl alcohol. The distillation process typically consists of three main stages, including conversion of a liquid into vapor, condensation of the purified liquid, and the collection of said purified liquid. In the case of alcohol, the process involves separating alcohol using evaporation and condensation.5
First, heat is introduced to base alcohol, capturing its certain parts, purifying it in the process and concentrating the remaining alcohol to be used in the production of different types of alcoholic beverages, mainly spirits and liquors. From there, alcohol undergoes varying processes for the production of a wide range of drinks, including aging and blending.5
What Are the Different Types of Distilled Alcoholic Drinks?
As mentioned, distilled alcoholic beverages in the form of spirits and liquors contain higher volumes or alcohol in comparison to their undistilled, or fermented, counterparts. The strength of an alcoholic beverage is measured in ABV, or alcohol by volume, which represents the number of milliliters of ethanol per one hundred milliliters of liquid in a solution. Distilled drinks range anywhere from 20% ABV to 70% ABV, and the main types of drinks are:6
Gin represents a spirit which is generally made using a grain base, most commonly barley and wheat, which goes through the process of fermentation and distillation. To be gin, the predominant flavor in this alcoholic beverage has to be that of juniper berries. The majority of gins have the ABV ranging from 35% to 55%.6, 7
In its essence, brandy is a form of distilled wine with a higher concentration of alcohol. It’s also made on the basis of grapes, further distilled from wine and with an ABV of between 35% and 60%. One of the most common types of brandy are calvados, armagnac, and cognac.6, 7
Rum represents a distilled beverage created from fermented molasses or sugarcane. Typically, rum has an ABV of 40%. However, there are also “overproof” types of rum with the alcohol concentration of at least 57.5% ABV. Rum often undergoes the process of aging in wooden barrels and can be combined with different spices to create spice rum.6, 7
Whiskey is among the most widespread and most recognized distilled alcoholic beverages. It originates from fermented grains which are further strengthened by the process of distillation. The alcohol concentration in whiskeys ranges from 40% to 50% ABV. This type of alcohol also comes in the forms of blends, single malts, bourbons, and scotches, depending on the specificities of production.6, 7
Finally, absinthe is another spirit created from a variety of herbs and leaves. It has a high alcohol concentration which can range anywhere from 40% to as much as 90% ABV.6, 7
What Are the Different Types of Fermented Alcoholic Drinks?
Fermented, otherwise known as undistilled drinks, represent a group or a type of alcoholic beverages that don’t go through the process of distillation after fermentation. The different types of alcohol produced through fermentation differ in the fruit or crop used in the process. Fermented drinks don’t exceed 15% ABV unless modified externally and their main forms are:6
Beer is the most widespread and probably the most popular among the different types of alcohol worldwide and across the United States. What’s more, in addition to coffee, tea, and water, beer is among the most widely consumed beverages across the globe, making it one of the leading causes of alcohol use disorder. Standard beers in the form of ales and lagers feature an ABV of between 4% and 6%, while there are also beers with ABV of above 8%. Beer is made by fermenting barley alongside other cereal grains, such as sorghum, corn, rice, oats, rye, and wheat.6, 7
This is often considered to be the oldest alcoholic beverage in the world and among the most popular ones, alongside beer. Standard forms of wine have less than 14% ABV. Wine is made from grapes fermented with yeast which helps convert sugars present in the grapes into alcohol. The five groups of wine are fortified, sparkling, rosé, white, and red. Champagne, a type of sparkling wine, between 10% and 12% ABV while fortified wine typically contains 20% ABV.6, 7
Mead is a blend of fermented honey and water that’s been a popular drink for centuries. Its alcohol concentration ranges from 10% to 14% ABV.6, 7
This is a drink originating from Japan, produced from fermented rice. Its alcohol concentration is generally around 16% ABV.
How Can I Get Help for My Alcohol Addiction?
Any one of the aforementioned different types of alcohol can cause alcohol abuse disorder of varying degrees of severity. That is why it’s essential to be familiar with the available treatment options as well as the first steps you can take in overcoming your alcohol addiction. If your loved one or yourself are struggling with a form of AUD, it’s good to first contact any of the available reputable 24/7 alcohol addiction hotlines where experienced and caring operators can provide necessary information on how to kickstart your treatment.8, 9, 10, 11
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, this helpline can offer compassionate support and resources. You can reach them 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD): Substance abuse can be a challenging issue to confront, but this toll-free helpline is there to help or your loved ones. They offer information, guidance, and support to individuals dealing with alcohol abuse and their loved ones. You can reach them at 1-800-622-2255.
- SAMHSA National Helpline: This confidential and free helpline offers a variety of resources to help. They have English and Spanish operators available 24/7, and they can provide referrals to local treatment centers. You can reach them at 1-800-662-4357.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): Mental health issues can be overwhelming, but this helpline offers free guidance to those who need it. They are there for you from 10 A.M. to 10 P.M., and they can help connect individuals with suitable rehab centers. You can reach them at 800-950-6264.
It takes courage to seek help, but these helplines are here to support you. Also, you can always lean on American Addiction Centers, the leading provider of alcohol addiction rehab and treatment solutions across the nation. Their 24/s hotline is available at all times and is completely toll-free, confidential, and private. Any information you disclose remains between you and your operator.
What’s more, they operate many of the nation’s leading rehab and treatment centers which offer tailored treatment options based on your exact preferences. AAC is here to help you through all the stages of your alcohol addiction recovery and offers a wide range of personalized services, including:
- Recognizing the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse disorder
- Determining the stage of your alcoholism addiction
- Help dealing with the negative withdrawal consequences
- Providing the necessary medication for alcohol withdrawal
- Guiding you through the process of medical detox
- Performing comprehensive alcohol rehab and treatment
- Other professional services
Finally, AAC offers a wide range of available payment options for your alcohol addiction rehab, allowing you to finance your recovery in the way that best suits your current financial situation. This is what makes American Addiction Centers the leaders in AUD treatment and recovery and why you should consider contacting them and starting your road to sobriety today.