In the human body, ethanol affects the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors and produces a depressant (neurochemical inhibitory) effect. Ethanol is similar to other sedative-hypnotics such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines both in its effect on the GABAA receptor, although its pharmacological profile is not identical. It has anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, hypnotic, and sedative actions similar to many other sedative-hypnotic drugs. Ethanol is also cross-tolerant with benzodiazepines and barbiturates. In fact, a synthetic alcohol based on benzodiazepines is currently developed by a team at Imperial College London, led by Professor David Nutt (chair of ISCD). The alcohol substitute give the drinker the effects of drunkenness without many of the risks of alcohol; Accordingly to ISCD alcohol was the most harmful of all drugs considered, scoring 72%.
Alcohol is the most available and widely abused substance and its chronic consumption causes neurobehavioral disorders. A high-functioning alcoholic (HFA) is a form of alcoholism where the alcoholic is able to maintain their outside life such as jobs, academics, relationships, etc. all while drinking alcoholically. Under the DSMs new definition of Alcoholism about 37 percent of college students may meet the criteria. Doctors are hoping that this new definition of the term will help catch severe cases of alcoholism early, instead of when the problem is full-blown. Alcoholism is a neurodegenerative disease which may lead to physical dependency that can be fatal in alcohol withdrawal syndrome due to its propensity to induce withdrawal convulsions.
The production and consumption of alcohol occurs in most cultures of the world, from hunter-gatherer peoples to nation-states. Alcoholic beverages are often an important part of social events in these cultures.