15 (useful?) Facts about Alcohol
Let’s face it, alcohol is everywhere. Liquor stores the size of grocery stores, billboards, online ads, print media, television commercials, happy hour menus.
For some, drinking is an enjoyable pastime, and for others trying not to drink consumes much of the day and can be cause for stress.
We may count the minutes until 5pm or we may be worried about our family member who drinks too much. We may be attending an AA meeting or planning wine tasting. For most of us, alcohol takes up a lot of space in our brain, for one reason or another. But how much do we know about it?
For something that creeps into our waking minds and can be such a great cause of both celebration and destruction, the majority of know less about alcohol than we do about the Kardashians which is indeed sad.
To help you begin filling your alcohol knowledge gap with debatably useful factoids, please proceed and enjoy.
1. The pressure in a bottle of champagne ranges from 60-90 pounds per square inch (PSI). That is about the amount of tire pressure in double decker bus tires. Champagne corks release with such velocity because of the pressure in the bottle. Champagne goes through a double fermentation process and in the second fermentation process, cane sugar and yeast are added which produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. The PSI in a bottle of champagne helps explain why the bottles and corks are so thick. So, if you choose to drink champagne, it’s important to not only drink responsibly, but to open the bottles responsibly as well!
2. Country songs have more lyrics about alcohol than any other genre. In a study that looked at lyrics across music genres from 2013-2017, the country music genre had lyrics that mentioned alcohol in 40% of the songs reviewed. A not even close second was R&B/hip-hop at 28%. The most mentioned types of alcohol were beer, whisky and wine for country music and wine, champagne and vodka for R&B/hip-hop. However, the study found that across genres, the percentage of total songs mentioning alcohol steadily increased over the five-year period reviewed.
3. AA founder Bill Wilson requested whiskey on several occasions while on his death bed, according to nurses’ logs. Wilson was dying of emphysema, and he was repeatedly denied his requests for a drink. Perhaps our societal quest for total abstinence has gone too far when we deny a dying man his last and utterly reasonable wish…
4. More organ systems are affected by alcohol than any other drug, including the liver, heart, stomach and digestive tract, the brain and pancreas.
5. Whisky is a Gaelic term which loosely translates to ‘water of life.’
6. The US has the highest drinking age in the world, something we share with only 11 other countries, including: Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Iraq. Most countries have their drinking age set at 18-19 years old.
7. Ever heard someone say they were “three sheets to the wind” to describe their drunken state? The term comes from characteristics of ships in the 1800s. The three corners of each sail were tied down with ropes, also known as ‘sheets. These sheets helped to keep ships stable in wind, however when sheets became untied, the ship would rock back and forth, not unlike a drunken sailor. Two sheets would indicate someone was less drunk and one sheet might be seen as buzzed.
8. When it comes to alcohol, weight, and size matter. High levels of muscle and/or fat help absorb alcohol, resulting in a lower blood alcohol level than a small person having consumed an identical dose. However, the larger size also slows the elimination of alcohol, so the person would retain it for a longer period.
9. Based on research in 2019, the US ranks 39th in the world for alcohol consumption, but we are tied for 6th place (with Slovenia) for rates of alcohol use disorder. However, when we separate by gender, females in the US have the highest rate of alcohol use disorder worldwide.
10. George Washington (yes, that George Washington) owned and operated a commercial distillery. Apparently, George had a good business sense and modern attitude toward alcohol consumption, as historians note that he was a believer in drinking in moderation.
11. Not all wines are created equally, especially not regarding alcohol content. Some of the lowest are German Kabinett Riesling (at 8% ABV) and Italian Moscato d’Asti (at 5.5% ABV). Medium alcohol wines contain 11.5%–13.5% ABV and examples include champagne, Sauvignon Blanc (from California), and chianti. Medium high wines have 13.5%–15% ABV and Pinot Noir (California) and Chardonnay (California and Washington) are included in this category. Port and Tawny Port and Zinfandel (California) are considered high alcohol wines with ABV over 15%. Although a standard wine pour is 5 ounces, the ABV varies the proper serving size.
12. Blue laws are laws that are meant to restrict certain activities on Sundays for religious purposes. This is most applied to alcohol sales. 28 states have blue laws. Here’s how it breaks down in Texas.
Any retailer with a license can sell beer and wine for "off-premises consumption." Beer can be sold from 7 am to midnight Monday through Saturday and from midnight to 1 am and noon until midnight on Sunday. Wine can be sold between 7 am to midnight Monday through Saturday and from midnight to 2 am and noon until midnight on Sunday. Liquor must be sold at specialized stores. Liquor cannot be sold on Sunday, on New Year's Day, Thanksgiving or Christmas, and between 9 pm and 10 am.
That is a shocking and seemingly pointless number of rules.
13. Of the top 10 most expensive commercials ever made, two were for beer. The Bud Light “Up for Whatever” commercial that aired in 2014 was a bargain at $12 million, compared to the $16 million Guinness spent on their “Tipping Point” commercial in 2007.
14. According to the United States Department of Transportation, 28 people die every day in drunk driving crashes. That breaks down to one person every 52 minutes.
15. In a 2019 review, the NIH found that only 7.3% of people with an alcohol use disorder received any treatment. They also found that people were more likely to seek treatment from their medical doctor for alcohol related health concerns, rather the alcohol use disorder.
Support if you need it
If you think you may have a problem with alcohol, or know that you do, Substance Use Therapy is here. Whether you want to explore your relationship with alcohol, make changes, or work toward abstinence help is available. Whatever you are facing, you don’t have to face it alone.
Still want to know more about alcohol? Check out some past posts to continue your knowledge quest.
Denning, P., & Little, J. (2017). Over the Influence: The Harm Reduction Guide to Controlling Your Drug and Alcohol Use. The Guilford Press.
Kuhn, C., Swartzwelder, S., & Wilson, W. (2019). Buzzed: The Straight Facts about the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy. W.W. Norton & Company.
About the Author:
Kimberly May, LPC-S, LMFT is a therapist at Substance Use Therapy in Austin, TX. Kimberly works with individuals, couples and families whose lives have been affected by substance use. By utilizing a harm reduction framework, Kimberly works effectively with people in any stage of use. In addition to substance use, she works with other issues such as anger, gambling, anxiety and grief. Contact today to schedule a no-charge, 30 minute consultation.