A Quick Look At Alcohol

Active Agent

Ethanol (CH3CH2OH) is the active ingredient in the alcoholic beverages that we drink. It’s biologically active metabolites include acetal aldehyde which has been linked to “hangover” symptoms.


Euphoria, loosening of inhibitions, altered sensorium (feeling giddy), diminished response time (bad for driving), are initial phenomena. At higher doses nausea, vomiting, and respiratory depression may occur. Vomiting associated with aspiration (breathing vomit) as well as respiratory inhibition have been associated with fatal results of alcohol use. Chronic use of alcohol can lead to addiction, which is also associated with cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, encephalopathy (brain damage), ulcers, and increased incidence of several cancers. Delirium tremens (D.T.’s) is a physical response to alcohol restriction in an addict which is characterized by psychosis, sweating, tremors, and rarely sudden death.

Addiction Potential

Physical – Moderate. Psychological – Moderate.


It’s legal and socially acceptable in most countries when used in moderation. States have varying age restriction on sales of alcoholic beverages.


When used in excess can seriously impair driving ability with too often fatal results. It has been estimated that over half of driving fatalities are attributable to alcohol. Its’ psychological effects may have a contributing role in many unwanted pregnancies. Extreme use usually precludes satisfactory functioning in school or at work.

Did you know

Over 40% of all the 16-to-20 year olds who died in 1994 were killed in car crashes. And about half of those were alcohol-related.
That’s around 2,222 of your classmates, soccer rivals, prom queens, and friends who died because somebody chose to drink and drive.
The number of intoxicated youth drivers in fatal crashes dropped 14.3% from 1983 to 1994. That’s the largest decrease of ANY age group during this time period. And they say you’re not listening!

Studies have shown that alcoholism and drug dependency tends to run in families, but researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston examined whether increased risk is a result of inherited factors or exposure to addictive behavior. The studies report that children of addicted parents are more likely to mimic their parents’ behaviors. Environmental exposure to substance abuse shapes the directions of addiction in children, especially those that are genetically vulnerable.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released the statistics for 1999:

Total traffic fatalities: 41,611
Total alcohol-related traffic fatalities: 15,786
Percentage of total traffic crashes that are alcohol-related: 38%

Content provided with permission by MADD aka Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Additional Information

Focus Health РTreatment and Information Center 
Alcoholics Anonymous 

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