Before we go any further, let’s be clear about what alcohol is. Alcohol itself is a colourless chemical; it can be made from almost anything that has sugar in it. For example, beer is made from barley, cider from apples, wine from grapes, whiskey from grain, and vodka from potatoes. Depending on what they are made from, and how they are made, different drinks have different amounts of alcohol in them. Beer and cider can be 2% to 7% alcohol; wines 9% to 15%; and spirits, like whiskey and vodka, are often 40% alcohol. These percentages are ‘Alcohol by Volume’. On bottles you may see this shortened to ‘ABV’ next to the percentage number. There are lots of different kinds of alcohol. Some of the main ones are beer, wine, cider; or spirits like vodka and whiskey.
Alcohol plays a part in many of our lives, yet it’s surprising how little people know about its contents. Apart from medicines alcohol is the world’s most widely used drug, a glass of wine with dinner, a beer after work, a cocktail in the sunshine on holiday. Alcohol makes an appearance in so many parts of our lives; it can be easy to forget that, like many drugs, it’s addictive, both physically and psychologically.
The NHS estimates that around 9% of men in the UK and 4% of UK women show signs of alcohol dependence sometimes known as alcoholism. This means that drinking alcohol becomes an important, or sometimes the most important factor in your life and you feel unable to function without it.