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What we call alcohol is really the chemical ethanol. Alcohol, a depressant, is a colorless chemical in fermented or distilled liquors that slows down the central nervous system, causing a decrease in muscle coordination, reaction time, and mental clarity. At high doses, alcohol can be deadly. It slows down the breathing system and can cause a coma or death. It is particularly dangerous to mix alcohol with other depressants. Combining them multiplies the effects of the drugs, which can lead to memory loss, coma, or death.

One drink of alcohol equals:

  • 12 ounces of beer or wine cooler;
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor;
  • 5 ounces of wine; or
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Not all alcoholic drinks have the same concentration of ethanol, so the effects peak at slightly different times. Beer can exceed 5% alcohol, wine is usually 12% alcohol, and distilled spirits are usually at least 40% alcohol.

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