Alcohol appears in various products, ranging from fuels, industrial chemicals, disinfectants and solvents – but most familiar are alcoholic beverages. Ethanol – also known as pure alcohol, grain alcohol or drinking alcohol – is a psychoactive drug that appears in the form of a colorless, volatile, flammable liquid with a pungent odor.
The use of ethanol can be traced as far back as the Neolithic period. Its application and usages have been present throughout history – such as its use as an alcoholic beverage in civilizations going back 9,000 years, its distillation characteristics as discovered during the Islamic Renaissance, and its chemical compound classification and energy resources as identified during the Industrial Revolution.
Ethanol is a depressant that affects the body’s central nervous system. It serves as an agonist to the GABA receptors and causes notable action to take place in the brain system. The level of intoxication is classified at 0.08% blood-alcohol content, most noticeably causing slurred speech and delayed reflexes, but can also produce such side effects as dizziness, disorientation, vomiting or unconsciousness.
Heavier drinkers develop higher tolerances to alcohol’s effects as the brain and body adjust to accept the constant presence of alcohol in the system. Over-consumption of alcohol can result in alcohol poisoning. Habitual drinkers can experience serious health risks and chronic illnesses such as heart disease, dementia and several types of cancers. A fatal amount of alcohol in the system measures 0.45% blood-alcohol content which, in normal health, can have lethal effects. Alcohol can be addictive if used regularly, resulting in the chronic disorder known as alcoholism.