A Bit Of History
There are written records of beer as far back as Mesopotamia and the empire of Babylon, about 6,000 years ago. It is certain that mankind’s fascination with alcohol and its mood-altering effects goes back far beyond those earliest records.
Seasonal availability of fruit and the time necessary to ferment it most likely limited our ancestors’ access to alcohol while they were nomadic hunter-gatherers. Settling down into agricultural communities created an abundance of fermentable grain, and a class of workers who had time to brew beer. Alcohol access on a regular basis became possible. That is most likely the point in history at which problematic drinking began.
We know that alcohol abuse and alcoholism are related to certain personality traits, and often involve dysfunctional childhood, poor self-image and other indvidual and social influences. We do not, however, completely understand the neurobiology of alcohol. Unlike opiates, cocaine, and many other drugs, researchers have not yet found receptor sites in the brain for alcohol. Instead, it acts on a number of receptor sites in a variety of ways. Its effects on the body and its systems are well understood, but the exact ways in which it affects the brain are still under study.
What everyone knows, however, is that there are several ways to use alcohol: casual drinking, habitual use, problematic abuse and, finally, alcohol addiction (alcoholism).