Module 7: Focus on Alcohol


In this second part of our course, we focus on different types of substances classified in terms of their general actions on the human body, mind, and behavior. We begin with the substance identified as the most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world—alcohol. You may recall from earlier modules that, of all the substances we study, alcohol is the one most commonly used by individuals over the age of 12. “In many of today’s societies, alcoholic beverages are a routine part of the social landscape” (WHO, n.d.). 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 module, the basic nature of alcohol as a psychoactive substance is described and basic epidemiological study results are presented. Content presented in this module 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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SWK 5805: Theories and Biological Basis of Substance Misuse Copyright © by Dr. Audrey Begun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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