The Global Initiative For Drug Policy Reform



Alcohol is one of the world’s most popular drugs, and it is made by fermenting grains, such as those used to produce beer, fruits, for example fermented grapes are used to produce wine, and sugars, which make spirits such as rum. The worldwide alcohol industry is huge and in most countries drinking alcohol is both socially acceptable and common.


Alcohol is legal in most of the world’s countries, although some constitutionally Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have banned it. The attempt to ban alcohol in the United States between 1919 and 1933 is known as ‘Prohibition’ and was deeply unpopular and a leading cause of organized crime. Many countries have age restrictions on the purchase of alcohol.

Medical Usage

Alcohol is medically used as a disinfectant and antiseptic.

Recreational Usage

Alcohol reduces inhibitions, and is therefore used by many in social situations. It can produce a feeling of contentment or relaxation. Many people drink to unwind after work, or because it allows them to become more comfortable socially.



Alcohol use can be extremely damaging to the liver, kidneys, brain and heart. It is a physically addictive substance and, because of its widespread use, it can be difficult to tell when symptoms of dependency arise. Its inhibition-reductive qualities also mean that it makes someone more likely to engage in anti-social behaviour such as vandalism and assault, or poor decisions such as unprotected sex. Impaired cognitive functioning means that driving while under the influence of alcohol is extremely dangerous and illegal in most countries.