ETOH is the chemical abbreviation for ethyl alcohol, and is usually synonymous with alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is the most abused drug in the world. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 86.3% of Americans over the age of 18 have reported consuming alcohol at some point in their life. A further 26.45% of Americans engaged in binge drinking in the past month. Given the popularity of alcohol, it is not surprising how prevalent ETOH abuse is.
What is ETOH?
ETOH, or ethanol, is the main substance found in alcohol. ETOH is responsible for any alcoholic beverage’s intoxicating effects. Ethanol is able to move through your body quickly. It passes through your bloodstream and heart, eventually reaching the brain where it begins to depress the central nervous system. Here, the feel-good chemical dopamine is released and begins to attach to nerve receptors. This is one of the reasons that alcohol can be so addictive. Your body craves things that make you feel good in order to get you to repeat certain behaviors. Dopamine is released during activities such as eating, sex, or taking certain drugs.
The brain slows down when ethanol binds to glutamate, a neurotransmitter responsible for exciting neurons. By binding to the glutamate, it can no longer become active and therefore slows brain function down. Ethanol also activates the gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), which in turn makes you feel sleepy and calm.
Some of the most common types of alcoholic beverages include beer, wine, and spirits. The “proof” is the standard for measuring a drink’s strenth. The United States’ preferred measuring system, the proof is double the alcohol by volume (ABV) in a drink. Whiskey, for example, is 50% alcohol by volume, and therefore 100 proof. Some beverages have such a high alcohol content (such as Everclear, which is 95% ABV, or 190 proof) that certain states restrict them.
Why does alcohol make you drunk?
Your liver is primarily responsible for breaking down the ethanol alcohol as it enters the body. However, most livers can only process so much alcohol at a time (around one ounce of liquor per hour). Once it reaches a certain point, the liver cannot process any more alcohol. The alcohol then proceeds into the bloodstream, where it creates an intoxicating effect.
While proof or ABV plays a big role intoxication levels, many other factors can make a difference. These include age, gender, body composition, and drinking history. For example, a person with a low body fat percentage will feel alcohol’s effects more quickly than someone with more body fat. Additionally, an individual with a longer history of drinking can develop a “tolerance.” This means they will feel less than someone who has never had a drink before.
Long-term ETOH abuse can cause severe damage to your organs and take a toll on the body and mind. Some long-term effects of ETOH abuse include:
- Brain damage
- Liver failure/disease
- Increased risk for cancer
Another component of alcohol abuse is the increased likelihood of engaging in dangerous or reckless behavior. In the U.S. alone, drunk drivers cause approximately 1 in 3 car accidents in the United States. (These collisions kill 30 people every day.) While moderate drinking is usually safe, binge drinking or long-term dependent drinking can increase your chances of death.
How long does alcohol stay in your system?
Age, gender and body composition all help determine how long alcohol’s effects will last. It can usually be detected in the body for some time after the effects wear off.
Another component of alcohol abuse is mental health. Most alcohol treatment groups and centers spend a great deal of time treating mental health issues. Mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety are often a major reason why people start drinking. While the problem is difficult, it is not impossible to overcome. As with many addictions, seeking professional help gives you the best chance of reaching lifetime recovery. Instead of just managing substance abuse symptoms, an addiction specialist will try to diagnose and treat the root cause. It is also important to have close circles of support, such as AA groups, to encourage sobriety. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, please contact us today.