Alcoholic beverages are drinks containing ethanol.
Alcoholic beverages have been widely consumed since prehistoric times by people around the world, seeing use as a component of the standard diet, for hygienic or medical reasons, for their relaxant and euphoric effects, for recreational purposes, for artistic inspiration, as aphrodisiacs, and for other reasons. Some have been invested with symbolic or religious significance suggesting the mystical use of alcohol, e.g. by Greek religion in the ecstatic rituals of Dionysus, god of wine; in the Christian Eucharist; and at the Jewish Passover.
Moderate consumption of alcohol, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as no more than one to two drinks for men and one drink for women per day, is consistently shown as being beneficial for the heart and circulatory system. Moderate consumers statistically have fewer heart attacks and strokes, live longer, have lower blood pressure, and generally report better overall health.
However, some people are prone to developing a chemical dependency to alcohol, alcoholism. The results of alcoholism are considered a major health problem in many nations. A chemical dependency is such a strong dependency on a substance that it becomes necessary to have this substance just to function properly; The need of a substance developed from abusing the substance, requiring the substance for survival, like the need for food, or water.
Frequent excessive consumption can harmfully interfere with the user's well-being. The neurological effects of alcohol use are often a factor in deadly motor vehicle accidents and fights. People under the influence of alcohol sometimes find themselves in dangerous or compromising situations where they would not be had they remained sober.
Some religions—most notably Islam, Latter-day Saints, the Nikaya and most Mahayana schools of Buddhism and some Protestant sects of Christianity—forbid or discourage the consumption of alcoholic beverages for these and other reasons.
Most governments regulate or restrict the sale and use of alcohol.