Chapter 10.0: Alcohol


Alcohol is the most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world. Despite its use being legal in the United States, alcohol misuse causes or contributes to a wide array of serious social and public health problems. In this chapter, the basic nature of alcohol as a psychoactive substance is described and basic epidemiological study results are presented. Content presented in this chapter informs and was informed by Begun, A.L. (2020). Introduction to psychoactive substances. In A.L. Begun & M.M. Murray, (Eds.), Routledge handbook of social work and addictive behavior. London: Routledge.

Reading Objectives

After engaging with these reading materials and learning resources, you should be able to:

  • Describe the nature of alcohol and its effects on behavioral and physical health;
  • Identify the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on developmental outcomes;
  • Explain alcohol consumption guidelines and define alcohol use patterns;
  • Describe general conclusions from epidemiological evidence concerning alcohol use, misuse, and use disorders;
  • Explain key terms and concepts related to alcohol.


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Introduction to Substance Use Disorders by Patricia Stoddard Dare and Audrey Begun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.