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Ethyl Alcohol Defined: Usage, Effects, & Dangers

The Dangers of Ethyl Alcohol

You might not be familiar with ethanol, but chances are you regularly consume it. It’s the kind of alcohol in beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages. All of us know of the dangers of excessive ethanol drinking, but just how dangerous can it be?

Today we’ll talk about ethanol and the dangers of abusing it. We’ll also address the commonly asked question: “Is alcohol a drug?”

What is Ethyl Alcohol

Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is a potentially addictive, edible substance mostly found in alcoholic beverages. You might know it as the type of alcohol in beer, wine, and spirits. Can you drink ethyl alcohol? You most definitely can.

Ethanol is the result of the natural fermentation of plant sugars. It’s one of the more effective substances that can kill bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms.

By the way, to clear the confusion on “ethanol vs. alcohol," ethanol is simply a type of alcohol. In other words, ethanol is alcohol, however, not all alcohol is considered to be ethanol. Another distinction, when compared to other toxic alcohols, like methanol or isopropanol (or rubbing alcohol), ethanol is the only type that can be ingested.

Beyond drinking ethanol, it's also used in many consumer products like perfumes, lotions, and face cleansers. It's also a potent solvent used as a critical component in paints and varnish.

Ethanol Alcohol and Pharmaceuticals

Ethanol is a substance that is widely used in the medical field. It’s one of the most potent disinfectants; hence why it's the active ingredient in hand sanitizers. 

Ethanol is also a component in many medicines since it can dissolve important medical compounds that water usually can't. It's the reason why some pain, cough, and cold medications have up to 25% ethanol in their formulation.

Additionally, ethyl alcohol acts as a preservative. You’ll commonly see ethanol as an ingredient in over 700 liquid-based medicines like furosemide, iron supplements, ranitidine, and phenobarbital, to name a few.

Ethanol Hazards Due to Abuse

Ethanol is a highly addictive substance, which is why it’s often classified as a drug. Drinking ethyl alcohol in large doses over prolonged periods can pose many health risks, such as liver damage, brain disease, cardiovascular problems, and cancer.

Not to mention, mental and social issues can stem from alcohol abuse. In extreme cases, excessive drinking can result in depression and suicide.

The problem with ethanol is that the more of it you drink, the higher tolerance you can gain. This can eventually lead to alcoholism.

Once you develop this level of addiction to alcohol, any sudden halt in drinking will lead to withdrawal symptoms. These are often much worse than the effects of ethanol itself and can lead to convulsions, hallucinations, and tremors.

Being intoxicated also puts you and other people at risk. Operating a vehicle or machinery while under the influence can lead to accidents and even death. Over 30% of all traffic accidents are caused by alcohol abuse.

Ethyl Alcohol Safety and Precautions

While ethanol is generally safe in moderation, specific groups of people face greater health dangers when consuming it.

For example, pregnant women are strictly advised to refrain from any alcohol consumption, all together. This is because excessive amounts of alcohol can cause a condition known as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Babies born with this condition suffer from permanent learning disabilities, poor memory, hyperactivity, and speech problems.

People with underlying health conditions like liver cancer, obesity, and heart problems should abstain from drinking any amount of alcohol. Of course, underage kids should also stay away from drinking, as it’s illegal in many countries.

When in doubt, always read the safety labels of alcoholic drinks, just like you would with any other drug. They often list important information such as serving suggestions, directions, applications, and the risks associated. The label should also detail the necessary steps in the event of a medical emergency caused by the product.

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholism is a serious disease that can jeopardize both health and relationships.

One of the most effective treatments for alcohol dependence is a reliable support system for the victim. Group therapy, counseling, or simply talking to a close friend or family member are all great ways to address someone’s alcohol dependence.

For serious cases, some oral medicines can be used to counteract the effects of alcoholism. Examples include disulfiram and naltrexone. These can often stop relapses or withdrawal symptoms, which can make abstinence easier for the victim.

Anyone seeking help in regards to alcoholism should speak to a medical professional. 

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