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Ethanol Abuse: Symptoms and Effects of EtOH Addiction

In many cultures, alcohol is a common part of daily life, and not everyone who uses alcohol abuses it. Some people find it easy to moderate the amount they drink, enjoying alcohol as a luxury rather than a necessity.

But others struggle deeply with alcohol consumption. Ethanol — the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages that causes intoxication — is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States, and one in every 12 adults suffers from alcohol abuse.

If you or a loved one appears to be struggling with ethanol abuse, here are the important symptoms and effects of ethanol addiction you need to know about.

What Is Ethanol?

Ethanol, commonly abbreviated as EtOH, is a term that refers to ethyl alcohol. A natural byproduct of plant fermentation, this form of alcohol is a clear liquid that often appears in hand sanitizer, cleaning products, and alcoholic beverages.

Although the terms “ethanol” and “alcohol” may be used interchangeably, they aren’t exactly equivalent. More accurately, ethanol is a type of alcohol. There are other forms of alcohol that people cannot consume, which include methanol and isopropanol.

How Do People Consume Ethanol?

The ethanol found within alcoholic beverages is naturally produced through the fermentation process of grains or fruit. Legally, companies that produce alcoholic beverages must include the alcohol percentage, also known as ABV, on the container. This percentage expresses the amount of ethanol within the beverage.

It is only “safe” for people to consume ethanol in the form of alcoholic drinks, such as beer, wine, and spirits. But ethanol should never be consumed in its purest form, which can result in coma or death.

Signs of Ethanol Intoxication

When people consume ethanol in alcoholic beverages, it produces the intoxicating effect associated with these drinks. The symptoms of alcohol intoxication include the following:

  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Impaired coordination and motor skills
  • Memory problems
  • A sense of confusion

There are also physical signs that someone has been drinking or is intoxicated. Pay close attention to the presence of bloodshot eyes, abrupt mood changes, and speaking at a higher volume than usual. You may also observe the smell of alcohol lingering on the person’s clothes or breath.

Depending on the amount the person is drinking, these signs may be pronounced or subtle. For instance, a person may become more talkative than usual. However, some people become aggressive or engage in risk-taking behaviors when under the influence.

What Constitutes Safe Alcohol Consumption?

Many people enjoy an alcoholic beverage with their dinner or on special occasions. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that certain forms of drinking help reduce the likelihood of falling into addiction.

Per these guidelines, women should drink no more than three alcoholic beverages a day and seven alcoholic beverages a week. Men can safely consume no more than four alcoholic drinks a day and should not exceed 14 alcoholic beverages a week. These differences in these guidelines are due to the fact that men and women metabolize alcohol differently.

Ethanol Abuse

Some people are more prone to alcohol abuse than others. People with mental health disorders, a genetic predisposition, or a family history of alcohol abuse are more likely to develop an addiction to ethanol. Women who drink more than eight alcoholic beverages a week and men who consume more than 15 alcoholic beverages per week are technically considered “excessive drinkers,” but this does not mean that they are addicted.

If a person is drinking excessive alcohol too often or cannot control their urge to drink, this is considered a warning sign of ethanol abuse. There are also other signs that may appear.

Signs of Ethanol Abuse May Include:

  • Hiding alcoholic beverages and becoming secretive about alcohol consumption
  • Having a high tolerance for alcohol
  • Frequently drinking until experiencing a blackout
  • Becoming irritable when they cannot drink
  • Drinking alone or choosing to drink alcohol over other activities
  • Continuing to drink alcohol despite adverse consequences, such as losing a job

Ethanol Addiction

Ethanol abuse can escalate to a physical and/or mental addiction. When a person is addicted to ethanol, they consume many alcoholic beverages despite negative consequences. People addicted to alcohol often use the substance as a form of self-medication when they have issues with their mental health. These people become physically dependent on it over time.

However, other people develop the habit of drinking excessively because they are bored or experience the social pressure to drink. Over time, their habit becomes a full-blown addiction. People who use ethanol must discern whether or not they are relying on the substance as a way to avoid their problems.

Signs of Ethanol Addiction May Include:

  • Becoming isolated from friends and family
  • Making excuses to drink
  • A decline in appearance and physical hygiene
  • Feeling hungover when not drinking
  • Continuing to drink despite a decline in health or medical emergencies such as alcohol poisoning
  • Multiple unsuccessful attempts to discontinue alcohol use

Ethanol Withdrawal Symptoms

Users of ethanol who try to drop their habit all at once may experience withdrawal symptoms that make it difficult for them to safely discontinue use. These symptoms can vary depending on the amount that the person drinks and how long they have been addicted. If you or a loved one is trying to break an ethanol addiction, keep an eye out for the following ethanol withdrawal symptoms and seek medical support if they become severe.

  • Shaky hands
  • Sweating 
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Seizures
  • Fever
  • Sweating

How Can Addicts Get Help?

If you recognize the signs of ethanol abuse in a loved one or yourself, help is always available. Alcohol addiction can ruin careers, relationships, and self-esteem. When it is time to seek treatment, speak with a healthcare provider to devise a treatment plan and begin your new life.

Identify Ethanol Abuse with Countrywide Testing

Ethanol is a highly addictive substance with a high potential for abuse, even when used responsibly. If you or a loved one is struggling with ethanol addition, it is vital to get medical help as soon as possible.

However, it’s not always easy to tell if someone is using abusing ethanol. If you need answers, Countrywide can help. We offer easy, multipanel drug tests that can be used in the comfort of your own home, letting you know if and when your loved one needs support for substance addiction.

At Countrywide, we provide results you can trust. To learn more, explore our catalog of convenient, at-home drug tests or contact our team today!