There are three main types of alcohol, with ethanol being the type used in the production of most alcoholic drinks. Ethanol is sometimes abbreviated to ETOH and is also used in cleaning materials and other commercial products. But is it dangerous to consume and is it addictive?

What is ETOH?

ETOH is an abbreviated term that is used to describe ethyl alcohol, otherwise known as ethanol. Ethanol is the base form of alcohol that is used to make all alcoholic beverages that are safe for human consumption. 

ETOH is also used in industrial solvents, consumer products (such as mouth wash, plastics, nail polish, and cologne), and antiseptics and cleaning agents. It is also occasionally used as an antidote or medical treatment for ethylene glycol and methanol overdoses.[1]

Though ETOH is the base for most alcoholic drinks, it is most commonly used to describe those that are derived from grain, as grain alcohol has a high alcohol by volume (ABV) of around 90% making it the closest alcoholic drink to pure ethanol.[1]

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Can you drink ETOH safely?

Grain alcohol such as Everclear and homemade alcohol like moonshine have comparatively high ABV and proof levels than are found in strong spirits like whisky and rum. This means that even drinking a small amount of these alcohols will raise the body’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) quickly, inducing an intoxicated state rapidly. 

Over-consuming ETOH drinks with high ABV percentages in excess can lead to alcohol poisoning and other serious health complications. 

ETOH is also found in many products, cleaning materials, and solvents that some people consume in an attempt to become intoxicated. This method of consuming high ABV ETOH carries additional health risks, as the liquids consumed often contain other potentially harmful chemicals that can cause serious harm to the body.

What is the difference between ETOH and alcohol abuse?

ETOH and alcohol abuse are one on the same. People who consume grain alcohols and other high ABV beverages may claim they don’t have an alcohol abuse problem as they only drink high percentage drinks in small quantities. As ETOH drinks intoxicate the body faster, even when consumed in small amounts, this argument has little weight behind it. 

Companies that produce products containing ETOH are becoming more and more aware of their potential for abuse. Many now add denaturants to products, most commonly bitter flavorings, which make the chemicals unbearable to drink.

Related: Different types of alcohol

Is drinking ETOH dangerous to health?

Like all forms of alcohol abuse, drinking ETOH in excessive amounts or for long periods of time carries serious health risks for those who abuse it. Here are some of the most common health complications from consuming ETOH:

Liver damage

Cirrhosis of the liver is a condition where massive scaring on the organ causes it to no longer function properly, flooding the body with toxins. This type of liver damage is commonly caused by alcohol abuse, including ethanol abuse.[2] 

As the liver helps metabolize ethanol by breaking it down into a highly toxic substance known as acetaldehyde when it can no longer perform this task due to cirrhosis it becomes incredibly dangerous to continue to abuse alcohol. In severe cases, it can lead to death. Read here to learn more about alcohol-related symptoms that can lead to death.

Brain damage

Ethanol, like other forms of alcohol, is neurotoxic and can cause damage to the neurotransmitters in the brain as well as alcohol-related peripheral neuropathy. 

This can cause damage to the signal pathways, receptors, proteins that allow the brain to function properly. Chronic ethanol exposure can cause behavioral, cognitive, and memory impairment and potentially permanent brain damage.[3]

Pancreatic inflammation

Chronic or excessive ETOH abuse can cause inflammation of the pancreas, causing the organ to reduce insulin production, increasing the risk of diabetes.

Mental health

Like all forms of substance abuse, ethanol alcohol abuse can cause severe mental health conditions, as well as exacerbate preexisting co-occurring disorders. These commonly include:[5]

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings
  • Addiction

ETOH addiction

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) encompasses various harmful drinking behaviors, including alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcohol addiction (alcoholism). Warning signs of alcohol use disorder are related to patterns of drinking, the continuance of alcohol consumption despite negative consequences and the presence of withdrawal symptoms.

The consumption of an increasing volume of alcohol, particularly if more alcohol is consumed than was intended, or if the individual finds it difficult or impossible to stop drinking, may indicate a problem. Often those with alcohol use disorder develop a tolerance to alcohol, requiring more and more to have the same effects.

Another indicator is if there is an intense craving for alcohol, and a large proportion of time is spent on obtaining alcohol, drinking it, and recovering from a drinking session. There may be neglect of personal and professional responsibilities due to drinking, and there may be physical effects such as blacking out or requiring medical intervention due to excess alcohol consumption.

The presence of withdrawal symptoms if alcohol is not consumed is also an indicator of ethanol use disorder.

Related: Alcohol deaths per year

Getting treatment for ETOH addiction

While the numbers of Americans struggling with alcohol use disorders, including ethanol abuse, are still high more people are seeking help with their addiction every year. 

As there are so many options for treatment, from residential stays in a dedicated rehab facility to behavioral therapy, getting help with an alcohol use disorder is more accessible than ever. 

If you are ready to take the leap and reclaim your life from alcohol addiction then contact a treatment provider today.