Alcohol

The effect of ethanol on the brain

Introduction: Chemistry

Molecular Formula

Alcohol refers to an organic compound in which (OH-) is bound to a carbon atom. Simple acyclic alcohols are a class of alcohols, which includes ethanol.


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Ethanol

In everyday life, alcoholic beverages refer to a solution containing ethanol. The word "alcohol" specifically refers to ethanol as in use of the terms "alcohol addiction" or "alcoholic".


Structural formula: CH3CH2OH


Molar Mass: 46.07 g mol−1

Boiling point: 78.37 °C

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Consumption of Ethanol

Slang terms for Ethanol

booze, hooch, juice, drink, medicine, remedy, giggle-water, fire-water, spirits
moonshine, ripple, boot-leg

Classification

As a drug, Ethanol is classified as a central nervous system depressant.


Basic effects of ethanol include:

  • Sedation
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Drowsiness
  • Disinhibition of impulses and emotions

Ways to Ingest Ethanol

Ethanol is ingested by means of a solution, or in simple terms: an alcoholic drink. These drinks are organized into three basic categories: beer, wine, and spirits.


Alcoholic drinks are consumed throughout the world and is one of the earliest known psychoactive drugs, though to have been consumed since the Neolithic era (New Stone Age, 10,200 BC - 4,500 BC). Ethanol is produced and consumed by most societies, from hunter-gatherers to nation states.


Alcoholic beverages are a source of food energy. Each gram of alcohol provides 7.1 kcal, and each millilitre provides 5.6 kcal.

Medicinal Use of Ethanol

Antiseptic

Ethanol is used in medical wipes as well as antibacterial hand sanitizer. Ethanol kills organisms by denaturing the proteins in the their bodies and dissolving their lipids, effectively killing most bacteria and fungi, and many viruses, but does not effect bacterial spores.

Antidote for Poisoning from other Alcohols

Ethanol is sometimes used to treat poisoning by more toxic alcohols, like methanol. Ethanol competes with other alcohols for specific enzymes, significantly reducing their toxic effects.


Other uses in History

Before modern medicine was developed, Ethanol was used for a variety of reasons including treatment for depression and as an anesthetic.


Alteration of Consciousness

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Short term effects of Ethanol

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Distorted vision and hearing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Decreased perception and coordination
  • Unconsciousness
  • Anemia (loss of red blood cells)
  • Coma
  • Blackouts (memory lapses, where the drinker cannot remember events that occurred while under the influence)


Long term effects of ethanol

  • Unintentional injuries such as car crash, falls, burns, drowning
  • Intentional injuries such as firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence
  • Increased on-the-job injuries and loss of productivity
  • Increased family problems, broken relationships
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • High blood pressure, stroke, and other heart-related diseases
  • Liver disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Sexual problems
  • Permanent damage to the brain
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency, which can lead to a disorder characterized by amnesia, apathy and disorientation
  • Ulcers
  • Gastritis (inflammation of stomach walls)
  • Malnutrition
  • Cancer of the mouth and throat


Duration of the Effects (metabolizing Ethanol)

Alcohol is metabolized at the rate of .015 of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) every hour.

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Dependance on Ethanol

Diagnosis

According to criteria for alcohol dependence, at least three out of seven of the following criteria must be manifest during a 12 month period:

  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms or clinically defined Alcohol Withdrawal System
  • Use in larger amounts or for longer periods than intended
  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down on alcohol use
  • Time is spent obtaining alcohol or recovering from effects
  • Social, occupational and recreational pursuits are given up or reduced because of alcohol use
  • Use is continued despite knowledge of alcohol-related harm (physical or psychological)


A myth about Alcohol

Alcohol kills brain cells

It may impair thinking, but alcohol doesn’t permanently destroy brain cells however it does damage dendrites. Dendrite damage interferes with neural messages, which can account for poor communication and the inability to walk in a straight line. These effects are only temporary.