ETOH Abuse: What Is It & How Does It Affect You?

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : MAY 10, 
2021 
| 4 Sources

YourWe are constantly introduced to new words and terms for a variety of reasons: innovation, new discoveries, cultural exchange, social trends, etc. 

While EtOH isn’t exactly a new word, its use in discussions surrounding alcohol addiction helps to obscure and even diminish the negative associations of alcohol abuse due to general unfamiliarity with the term. This makes it easier to talk about the issue without fear of judgment, though that can also downplay the dangers and effects of alcohol dependence.  

If you’re confused about the difference between EtOH and alcohol and how EtOH abuse affects you, this article breaks it down in simple terms.

EtOH Abuse: What Is It & How Does It Affect You?

What is EtOH? 

The short answer to that question is, EtOH is alcohol. Specifically, EtOH is the chemical abbreviation for ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol. 

There are generally three types of alcohol: isopropyl, methyl, and ethyl alcohol. Although all three are toxic, ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is the only one safe for human consumption, within reasonable amounts. Made by fermenting grains, fruits, or other organic matter, ethanol or EtOH is the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks that cause intoxication.

There are two categories of alcoholic beverages: distilled and undistilled, both of which contain ethanol.

Examples of undistilled alcohol include wine and beer, where the alcohol content is fairly low. Beers average around 4.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) while wines have an average of 11.6% ABV. 

Distilled alcohol, on the other hand, involves purifying the alcohol by separating the water from the alcohol to achieve a higher concentration. Examples of distilled alcohol include spirits such as rum, vodka, brandy, and whiskey with an average ABV of 37-40%. 

 Grain alcohol (also known as neutral spirits) falls in the distilled category, however, it specifically refers to highly concentrated ethanol. Undiluted, grain alcohol contains a minimum of 95% ABV. Commonly used as a disinfectant due to its high potency, grain alcohol is not meant to be consumed on its own. Examples of grain alcohol include Everclear, Alcohol-95, and Golden Grain.

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Is There a Difference Between EtOH and Alcohol?

In simple terms, no, there’s no difference between EtOH and alcohol. All alcoholic beverages contain EtOH/ethanol, but the level of alcohol concentration varies widely, which makes a huge difference in how it affects the individual, particularly heavy drinkers.

Here’s a comparison of the different types of alcoholic drinks and their range of alcohol/ethanol concentrations.

  • Grain alcohol/neutral spirits: The most potent spirits on the market with a minimum of 95% ABV, grain alcohol is illegal in many US states due to its toxicity. Drinking shots of grain alcohol can be fatal.
  • Cask strength whiskey: 55-60% ABV
  • Whiskey, rum, and tequila: 40-46% ABV
  • Vodka: 35-46% ABV
  • Gin: 35-40% ABV
  • Fruit liqueurs: 28-32% ABV
  • Fortified wines (e.g. sherry, port, madeira): 17-21% ABV
  • Wines: 5-14% ABV
  • Beers: 4-7%, but craft beers can go up to 12% ABV 

 As the above shows, the amount of alcohol content in different drinks can vary immensely, depending on the substance the individual is consuming. 

 Though beer and wine contain much lower levels of alcohol concentration, it doesn’t mean that one should make a habit of binge drinking it, just as it’s not advisable to down multiple shots of spirits on a regular basis. 

 Consuming a high amount of alcohol regularly causes the body to build an alcohol tolerance, which leads to drinking even more to feel the effects of the alcohol—it’s a slippery slope towards alcohol dependence.

ETOH AbusePhoto by Jonathan Rados

What Are the Symptoms of EtOH Abuse?

EtOH abuse doesn’t always lead to alcohol addiction, but it’s a common starting point for addiction to take root. Even if an individual doesn’t develop alcohol dependence, excessive drinking over an extended period causes major health complications in the long run.

 The CDC defines binge drinking as four or more alcoholic beverages for women, and five or more for men, within about two hours. Consuming 8 or more drinks per week for a woman, or 15 or more drinks per week for a man, is considered heavy drinking.

 According to the CDC, “Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 95,000 deaths in the United States each year, including 1 in 10 total deaths among working-age adults.” They further report that “In 2010, excessive alcohol use cost the US economy $249 billion, or $2.05 a drink. Binge drinking is responsible for almost half the deaths and three-quarters of the costs due to excessive alcohol use.”

 Common symptoms of EtOH addiction include the following:

  • A compulsion to drink every single day. 
  •  The urge to start the day with a morning drink. 
  •  An inability to stop drinking once you start. 
  •  Failure to reduce or quit drinking despite your best efforts. 
  •  Memory gaps after drinking. 
  •  Prioritizing drinking over your social and familial responsibilities.  
  •  Withdrawal symptoms such as hand tremors, sweating, nausea, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety after a period without alcohol.

 Individuals who develop alcohol dependence can’t help being overcome by the all-consuming obsession with alcohol. That’s what addiction does. But beyond its mental and emotional impact, EtOH addiction causes serious damage to the body over time.

The Dangers of EtOH Abuse 

According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), excessive alcohol consumption can lead to damage of the following:

  • Heart: Long-term alcohol abuse has been shown to cause strokes, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), and more.
  • Liver: Since the liver’s primary function is ​​to filter all the blood in the body and break down poisonous substances such as alcohol and drugs, regular heavy drinking will take its toll on the liver and impair its ability to function.
  • Pancreas: Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic by-products that lead to inflammation of the pancreas, potentially fatal pancreatitis, and swelling of blood vessels in the pancreas, affecting the body’s digestion system.

Chronic binge drinking and alcohol abuse also lower the body’s immune system, increasing the individual’s risk of disease and certain types of cancer such as cancer of the mouth, esophagus, and throat due to regular exposure to alcohol.

 Repeated alcohol abuse can lead to alcohol dependence, which makes it infinitely harder to control or regulate one’s alcohol consumption without help from a treatment program.

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Help Is Always Available

Alcohol recovery isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do it on your own. Whether it’s a friend, loved one, or yourself struggling with alcohol dependence, help is always available for those who need it.

Call our 24/7 free helpline at 877-322-2694 and speak to a counselor for support or advice.

 They’ll provide detailed and relevant facts and information on alcohol misuse and addiction, connect you with competent and helpful alcohol treatment programs and centers, and walk you through every step of the treatment and recovery process so you can decide on the best choice for you or your loved one.

 We’re here to help you get through this.



Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


Hello!

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

SOURCES:

Alcohol's Effects on the Body | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)

ETOH Abuse – What is, Symptoms and Treatment | Actforlibraries.org

Excessive Drinking is Draining the U.S. Economy (cdc.gov)

Excessive Alcohol Use (cdc.gov)


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