EtOH is the primary ingredient in all alcoholic beverages. 

Etoh Abuse

Table of Contents

What is ETOH?

Problem drinking can range in severity from binge drinking to alcohol addiction, and there are many shades of grey in between. For many people, the occasional drink here and there will not evolve into something problematic. However, others may have a more challenging relationship with alcohol that could result in ethanol addiction.

EtOH is a chemical term resulting from the abbreviation for ethyl alcohol. Also called ethanol, ethyl alcohol is the clear substance found in alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, and liquor. When ethyl alcohol is referred to in the academic or research setting, it is often called EtOH. It is important to note there is a distinction between ethanol and alcohol. Although a very simple difference, it is crucial to health and safety.1

Ethanol vs. Alcohol

The difference between ethanol and alcohol can be easily remembered with the phrase “all ethanol is alcohol, but not all alcohol is ethanol.” That said, ethanol or ethyl alcohol is the only type of alcohol you can consume without causing severe harm to your body. Ethanol, sometimes called grain alcohol, is produced by fermenting grains.

Other types of alcohol include methanol (methyl alcohol) and isopropanol (rubbing alcohol). Each type of alcohol has a unique chemical composition, but no other kind of alcohol is safe to drink.

Ethanol in Production of Other Chemicals

Although best known for its ability to produce intoxication in alcoholic beverages, ethanol is also used to make other types of products that are used on a day-to-day basis.


Ethanol is used in medical wipes and most antibacterial hand sanitizer gels. Ethanol has both anti-fungal and antibacterial effects. The substance kills microorganisms and is effective against most bacteria, fungi, and viruses. In most antiseptic uses, you will find a 70% ethanol solution because ethanol requires water molecules to perform appropriately.

Additive in Gasoline and Other Fuels

The most extensive use of ethanol is as a fuel source or as a fuel additive. In the United States and other countries, E85 fuel, also known as 85 octane fuel, contains approximately 85% ethanol. Ethanol has also been used as rocket fuel, and it is currently used to power lightweight, rocket-powered racing aircraft.

Alcohol by Volume (ABV) Rate by Beverage Type

Binge drinking is a common problem among teens and adults. Binge drinking is simply defined as consuming a harmful amount of alcohol in one session of drinking. The amount of alcohol considered dangerous for women is different than for men. For men consuming five or more standard beverages in one sitting is deemed to be harmful. For women, the number drops to four or more. In most cases, a “sitting” is considered a window of two hours or less as the body does not have adequate time to process the alcohol taken into the system during such a short window. Binge drinking is dangerous and can lead to alcohol poisoning or alcohol overdose.

What Is a Standard Drink?

Many people may not understand what constitutes a standard drink. Alcohol by volume ratings helps clarify a “standard serving” across multiple drink types. Drink serving sizes are determined by their ABV or the measure of alcohol content within the beverage.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a standard drink contains around 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. In the United States, a standard drink would be as follows:2

  • 12 ounces of beer or one bottle at 5% ABV
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor at 7% ABV
  • 5 ounces of wine at 12% ABV
  • 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, or one-shot, at 40% ABV
  • 8-9 ounces of malt liquor at 7% ABV

Alcoholism vs. Alcohol Use Disorder

An alcohol use disorder is a term used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to define problem drinking. When the DSM was updated (from the 4th to the 5th edition) in 2013, two former categories used to describe problem drinking were combined. Alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence became alcohol use disorder or AUD.

The severity of one’s AUD is rated as mild, moderate, or severe depending on the number of diagnostic criteria they present. The DSM provides eleven criteria to measure the severity of an AUD. If you have at least two, your condition is considered mild. Four or more symptoms are a moderate alcohol use disorder, and six or more indicate a severe disorder.

The difference between the terms is slight but important. An alcohol use disorder is a diagnosis used by medical and mental health professionals to describe someone with an alcohol problem. Alcoholism is a non-medical term used in everyday conversation. If you seek professional alcoholism treatment, your provider will not diagnose you as an alcoholic but as having an alcohol use disorder.

Statistics on Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholism is the most common substance use disorder in the United States. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 16 million Americans were heavy alcohol users, and 14.5 million met the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Among adults over age eighteen, nearly 35% reported binge drinking in the past month. In adolescents and teens ages twelve to twenty-seven, 5% report engaging in binge drinking. As many as 7 million adolescents report illegally obtaining and drinking alcohol.3

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

When someone is struggling with an ethanol addiction or engaging in EtOH abuse, it can lead to significant and noticeable physical and psychological effects. When left untreated, EtOH abuse and dependency can quickly devolve into something severe and life-threatening. Recognizing the warning signs can help ensure early access to alcohol addiction programs and mental health services.

Early Signs

Some of the most common physical symptoms of ethanol addiction include:

  • slurred speech
  • poor coordination
  • slow reaction times
  • Hangovers
  • alcohol poisoning.

Severe Signs

Without treatment, long-term alcohol use can lead to…

  • Malnutrition
  • Liver damage
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased alcohol tolerance
  • Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
  • Alcohol seizures
  • Poor hygiene
  • Weakened immune system
  • Cognitive impairments

Behavioral Changes

Ethanol addiction can lead to behavioral changes as well. Although short-term symptoms such as risk-taking and aggressive or belligerent behavior can be linked to other mental health conditions, long-term alcohol abuse often leads to behavioral changes as an addict tries to hide their drinking from friends or loved ones.

Long-term behavioral effects may include:

  • Drinking in secret or alone
  • Denying they have a problem with alcohol
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Problems at work or home
  • New or worsening legal issues
  • Choosing to drink over other responsibilities
  • Drinking at unusual times
Alcohol abuse can lead to physical and functional changes in the brain. In the short term, signs of EtOH abuse may include irritability, memory impairments, blackouts, and poor judgment. Long-term effects can be more severe and, in some cases, permanent. The most common long-term impacts are new or worsening mental health symptoms, alcohol tolerance, cravings, and withdrawal symptoms.

The Dangers of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state more than 95,000 deaths each year in the United States are attributed to alcohol-related causes. Although many are related to the long-term effects of alcohol abuse, many are linked to one specific short-term effect-alcohol poisoning. More than 2,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning (sometimes called an alcohol overdose), many between the ages of thirty-five and sixty-four.4

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

To ensure a friend or loved one receives life-saving alcohol poisoning treatment, it is vital to understand and recognize the warning signs of alcohol poisoning or alcohol overdose. Critical symptoms of alcohol overdose include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Trouble staying conscious (or unable to wakeup)
  • Vomiting
  • Alcohol seizures
  • Slow breathing (8 breaths per minute or less)
  • Irregular breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Clammy skin
  • Dulled responses
  • Little or no gag reflex and low body temperatures

Any of these symptoms require prompt alcohol poisoning treatment. It is critical to call 9-1-1 immediately as your friend or loved one could lose their life from an alcohol overdose. Well-known “at home” treatments such as coffee, walking, and cold showers will not reverse the effects of alcohol overdose.

Alcohol Withdrawal Signs

The first step in overcoming alcohol addiction is to detox. Withdrawal symptoms are the collection of symptoms experienced by alcoholics when they suddenly stop drinking alcohol. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range from relatively mild to life-threatening. The severity of these symptoms will vary based on the individual, how much they drink, and for how long they have experienced problem drinking. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be physical and psychological. Although everyone who goes through withdrawal will experience it differently, most people experience several common symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms often include:5

  • Changes in appetite
  • Altered mood or behavior
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Aches and pains
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Respiratory issues such as congestion or runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Nausea and vomiting

More severe symptoms, including hallucinations, seizures, and delirium tremens (DTs), may also occur in some cases.

How Long Does Withdrawal Last?

The duration of withdrawal symptoms also links directly to how often they drank and how much they drank. While the most severe physical withdrawal symptoms last between three and seven days, some can last up to two weeks. Withdrawal also produces intense mental health symptoms for some addicts. These symptoms, including anxiety and depression, can last far longer.

Alcohol Treatment

When detoxing from alcohol, the withdrawal process can lead to severe complications. Whether your addiction is mild or severe, detox will lead to withdrawal symptoms. For some, detox may be accompanied by mild symptoms that are easily managed without significant medical assistance or intervention. However, for others, the withdrawal process can bring about dangerous and even fatal symptoms and complications. Although the most severe symptoms only occur in a small number of cases, emergency assistance is vital to ensure safety.

Medically Assisted Treatment

At an addiction treatment center where medically assisted detox is provided, each person seeking treatment can expect full medical supervision throughout the detox process. Depending on the program, this may include medications during detox to help reduce the intensity and severity of withdrawal symptoms. Medication-assisted treatment or MAT is also part of many therapeutic programs. MAT is used in conjunction with regular therapy to help reduce cravings and help maintain sobriety.


Although detox is the first and most crucial step on the road to sobriety, it is not a standalone treatment. It must be followed by evidence-based, comprehensive addiction treatment that includes therapy. Therapy for substance use disorders often involves cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT. This type of therapy focuses on the behavioral and thought patterns that further substance abuse.

The goal of therapy is to ask patients to examine their thoughts and behaviors to help understand the root causes of addiction. They are then encouraged to modify their thoughts and behaviors to promote safer and healthier responses. For therapy to be successful, the program must be built around your specific treatment needs and goals.


EtOH addiction is a disease that does not have a cure. However, with proper treatment and the desire to heal and get sober, alcohol addiction is treatable, and a healthy, sober lifestyle is possible. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s time to reach out for help. Our Prescott, AZ treatment team is here to help you get and stay sober. Contact us today to learn more about our programs.


  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/016372588890109X?via%3Dihub
  • https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/practitioner/PocketGuide/pocket_guide2.htm
  • https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt29393/2019NSDUHFFRPDFWHTML/2019NSDUHFFR1PDFW090120.pdf
  • https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  • https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/addiction-treatment-recovery/alcohol/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-timeline

If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
623-523-4748 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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