What is ETOH?

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ETOH is a shorthand abbreviation for ethyl alcohol and is also known as ethanol. This form of alcohol is the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages that leads to intoxication. 

Ethyl Alcohol

People usually consume ethyl alcohol in a diluted concentration. The level of the concentration is measured and is known as the alcohol proof. This is done mainly to improve taste and to lessen the severity of alcohol’s effects. 

Ethanol reacts with the body to alter mood and behavior, among other effects. Brewers and distillers usually make it from organic matter with high sugar or carbohydrate content. The human liver can usually filter ethanol from the body. However, it becomes even more toxic when consumed faster than the liver can break it down.

Drinking alcohol is the most common way to ingest a psychoactive substance in the United States.

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Types of Ethyl Alcohol

There are three main types of alcohol: isopropyl, methyl, and ethyl alcohol (ethanol). All three are toxic, but people can safely consume only ethanol. Due to this fact, ethyl alcohol often refers specifically to alcohol made from grains (grain alcohol) or other edible organic matter.

All alcoholic beverages contain ethanol. They are divided into two categories: distilled and undistilled. 

Undistilled drinks are all fermented, with bacteria or yeast chemically converting available sugars into ethanol. Examples of undistilled alcoholic beverages include wine and beer. Winemakers ferment grapes, and beer makers ferment wheat, rice, barley, and other grains.

Distilled drinks are all made from fermented beverages that are then treated to achieve a higher alcohol concentration. This is done by separating the alcohol from the water in a fermented liquid. Examples of distilled alcoholic beverages include rum, vodka, and whiskey, which contain more alcohol than undistilled drinks and higher alcohol proof.

Types of Ethyl Alcohol

The two measures of alcohol content are alcohol by volume (ABV) and alcohol proof. ABV is sometimes called percent alcohol. Each of these measures the alcohol concentration in a drink and is listed on the producer’s label. 

Alcohol by volume is the number of milliliters of ethanol per 100 milliliters. Alcohol proof is simply twice the alcohol by volume number, meaning 40% ABV is measured as 80 proof. 

Alcohol content for different types of drinks that contain ethanol varies, though most beers are around 4.5% ABV, while most wines are about 11.6% ABV and most spirits are around 37% ABV.

How Does Ethanol Affect the Body?

Ethanol affects the body in many ways. The effects of ethyl alcohol consumption are most pronounced when the drinker reaches the point of alcohol intoxication. These include:

  • Behavior changes
  • Slurred speech
  • Diarrhea 
  • Impaired decision making
  • Impaired motor function

Binge drinking exacerbates these effects. As defined by the NIAAA (National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), this type of alcohol consumption is any drinking episode that causes a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher. Typically, women need to consume four alcoholic drinks or more over a 2-hour period, while men need to consume at least five beverages over a similar span.

Excess drinking in a short amount of time increases blood alcohol concentration and impacts the central nervous system (CNS). These effects can linger after you cease to drink alcohol, leading to hangover effects. 

Too much ethanol can also adversely affect the body by creating a physical dependency (substance use disorder) that can be difficult to quit. 

Symptoms of Alcohol Intoxication

Aside from the long-term health effects of alcohol abuse, some short-term health risks can occur too.

These include:

  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Drownings
  • Fallings

These events can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening.

Some signs of alcohol intoxication can include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Issues walking or standing
  • Disorientation
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

Additionally, because alcohol addiction is all-consuming, it can create problems at home, work, and school. Anyone who believes they may have an alcohol problem should seek help immediately.

Symptoms of ETOH Abuse and Addiction

ETOH abuse can lead to alcohol addiction. Symptoms of ETOH addiction include:

  • Inability to limit alcohol consumption
  • Failed attempts to reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption
  • Spending a significant time drinking or recovering from drinking
  • Experiencing cravings to drink
  • Neglecting responsibilities and obligations
  • Continuing use of alcohol despite physical, emotional, or social harm
  • Using alcohol in unsafe situations, such as when driving
  • Neglecting social activities and hobbies
  • Developing a tolerance
  • Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, or shaking

Dangers of ETOH Abuse

ETOH substance abuse in the form of heavy drinking can lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD). This can lead to many adverse health effects.

Short term effects of alcohol abuse include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Loss of coordination and awareness
  • Poor memory
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Slurred speech
  • Risky sexual behaviors
  • Injuries (such as car crashes and drowning)

Long term effects of alcohol abuse include:

  • Brain damage
  • Liver damage
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease 
  • Pancreas issues
  • Increased risk of cancers
  • Weakened immune system
  • Learning problems
  • Social, mental, and financial problems
  • Alcohol use disorder

Do I Have a Drinking Problem?

If you're wondering if you have a drinking problem, this self-assessment can help you. These questions are used by doctors and are taken from the DSM-V. However, self-assessments are not an adequate substitute for professional assessment.

  1. In the last year have you continued to drink more than you meant to? (Larger amounts of alcohol or over a longer period of time?)
  2. In the last year have you found it difficult to limit your excessive drinking?
  3. In the last year have you spent a lot of time obtaining, drinking, or recovering from alcohol?
  4. In the last year have you felt cravings or strong urges to drink?
  5. In the last year have you found yourself letting obligations and responsibilities like work, school, and relationships with friends and family fall to the wayside?
  6. In the last year have you continued to consume alcohol despite alcohol-induced social or interpersonal issues caused by alcohol?
  7. In the last year have you stopped or slowed down attending important social, work, or recreational activities due to alcohol use?
  8. In the last year have you continued to use alcohol in situations that can cause you physical harm?
  9. In the last year have you continued to use alcohol despite knowing it is harming you physically, psychologically, or socially?
  10. In the last year have you developed a high tolerance for alcohol that requires you to drink more and more to achieve the same effect?
  11. In the last year have you experienced any alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, irritability, or tremors (delirium tremens)?

According to the DSM-5, alcohol use disorders are classified as mild, moderate, and severe. If you answered "yes" to

  • 2 to 3 questions, you may have a mild alcohol use disorder
  • 4 to 5 questions, you may have a moderate alcohol use disorder
  • 6 or more questions, you may have a severe alcohol use disorder

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is typically done by people who drink with the purpose of intoxication. These individuals may gather friends and family to abuse ETOH.

After binge drinking, an individual is at a higher risk of:

  • Physical injuries
  • Wrecking a car
  • Engaging in unprotected sex

Alcohol can reduce the functioning of the area of the brain responsible for calculating risk and reward. This part of the brain is like the body’s parent. It prevents people from doing dangerous things.

When this area of the brain is not working at an optimal level, individuals can make poor decisions without determining the risks properly. Their inhibitions drop.

Binge drinking is almost always considered dangerous. It can lead to so many difficulties in a short period. As a result, binge drinking is known to be a symptom of an alcohol use disorder.

Someone who binge drinks may begin an abusive drinking pattern without realizing how dangerous it is. Understanding the damage alcohol can cause can, in some cases, help people get their drinking under control.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a serious medical issue. It often requires addiction treatment and medically supervised detox programs to stop using alcohol without debilitating withdrawal symptoms. 

Treatment programs are designed to help patients break free from addiction. Most programs target both the mental and physical dependence associated with alcoholism with a combination of therapy, support groups, and supervision by medical professionals. 

The most common types of alcoholism treatment are:

Detox

The impact of alcohol can be persistent. Long-term alcohol abuse can adjust electrical circuitry in the brain. This changes the signals the brain cells use to communicate.

These cells may depend on the new signals, and they may malfunction when no alcohol is present. This can lead to alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be serious and even life-threatening. As such, it is not wise for people with an alcohol use disorder to quit cold turkey. Instead, individuals with an alcohol addiction should join a medical detox program.

During alcohol medical detox, patients receive medications to soothe the withdrawal symptoms alcohol can cause. Individuals are also medically monitored, so doctors can help if withdrawal symptoms begin to grow severe.

Detox helps people on the road to sobriety without running the risk of experiencing challenging side effects. After medical detox, rehabilitation can start.

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment is the most effective and intensive addiction treatment program. Patients undergo all portions of the program from detoxification to aftercare with medical supervision. They sleep at the treatment facility. These programs typically last 30,60, or 90 days, but can be extended if necessary.

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is a popular choice for people who have responsibilities such as family, work, or school. It requires a high level of motivation for getting sober.

Partial Hospitalization Programs

Partial hospitalization treatment is a more intensive outpatient program. Patients have access to medical staff and spend several hours at the treatment facility. But they return home to sleep.

Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

If you are a good candidate, it may be advisable to undergo medically assisted treatment. A psychiatrist can prescribe medications (such as disulfiram, naltrexone, and acamprosate) that help reduce cravings and encourage sobriety.

Find Help For Your Addiction

You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.

Resources +

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Guidelines and Resources.” NIAAA https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/research/guidelines-and-resources

Leeman, Robert F et al. “Ethanol consumption: how should we measure it? Achieving consilience between human and animal phenotypes.” Addiction biology vol. 15,2 (2010): 109-24. doi:10.1111/j.1369-1600.2009.00192, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20148775/

National Institute of Health. “Information About Alcohol.” NIH https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK20360/

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Drinking Levels Defined.” NIAAA https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Binge Drinking.” NIAAA https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/binge-drinking

Wackernah, Robin C et al. “Alcohol use disorder: pathophysiology, effects, and pharmacologic options for treatment.” Substance abuse and rehabilitation vol. 5 1-12. 23 Jan. 2014, doi:10.2147/SAR.S37907, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931699/

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