Alcohol has been used as an intoxicant for the past 9,000 years, dating back as far as the Stone Age. Distillation has been around since early Greek civilization. Centuries later, the first recorded production of ethanol was accomplished by the School of Salerno in the 12th century. The chemical formula was first determined and recorded by Nicolas-Theodre de Saussure in 1808. Its structured formula, one of the first ever recorded, was published 50 years later by Archibald Scott Couper.
Ethanol is not only a psychoactive, but also a rocket fuel, solvent, disinfectant and an ingredient in many practical applications other than as a drug and culinary ingredient. As a psychoactive substance, it is considered an anxiolytic. In terms of its neurophysiologic activity, it is classified as a GABAergic.
GABA is the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating excitability salience and anxiolytics are substances that curb the fight or flight adrenal response and generally inhibit the brain. Alcohol also acts as an NMDA receptor antagonist, a functionally dissociative anesthetic in animals, by inhibiting the N-methyl d-aspartate receptor.
Anxiolytics – Anything that has the potential to decrease anxiety at the experiential level. These include benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, azapirones, barbiturates, antihistamines, pregabalin, the z-drugs, tofisopam, baclofen, and others.
GABAergics – GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter of the mammalian central nervous system. A GABAergic agent is anything that increases the levels of this neurotransmitter in the synaptic cleft through a variety of neurophysiologic actions. (GHB, Pregabalin, kava, hyperforin, among others)
Depressants – any drug that reduces brain activity. This broad category includes all of the drugs mentioned above, beta blockers, muscle relaxers, antipsychotics, and many other, more precise, categories of drugs.
Alcohol is not approved for medical use.
The amount of food in the stomach can drastically affect absorption speed. Hydration levels, metabolic factors and tolerance are all substantial factors in affect alcohol will have on a given person. Ethanol is most broadly classified as a central nervous system depressant, however, the effects vary substantially not only in degree but in type. This is largely dose-dependant.
Euphoria (BAC = 0.03 to 0.12%)
- Overall improvement in mood and possible euphoria
- Increased self-confidence
- Increased sociability
- Shortened attention span
- Flushed appearance
- Impaired judgment
- Impaired fine muscle coordination
Lethargy (BAC = 0.09 to 0.25%)
- Impaired memory and comprehension
- Delayed reactions
- Ataxia; balance difficulty; unbalanced walk
- Blurred vision; other senses may be impaired
Confusion (BAC = 0.18 to 0.30%)
- Profound confusion
- Emotional lability
- Impaired senses
- Increased ataxia; impaired speech; staggering
- Dizziness often associated with nausea (“the spins”)
- Vomiting (emesis)
Stupor (BAC = 0.25 to 0.40%)
- Severe ataxia
- Lapses in and out of consciousness
- Anterograde amnesia
- Vomiting (death may occur due to inhalation of vomit (pulmonary aspiration) while unconscious)
- Respiratory depression (potentially life-threatening)
- Decreased heart rate
- Urinary incontinence
Coma (BAC = 0.35 to 0.50%)
- Unconsciousness (coma)
- Depressed reflexes (i.e., pupils do not respond appropriately to changes in light)
- Marked and life-threatening respiratory depression
- Markedly decreased heart rate
- Most deaths from alcohol poisoning are caused by dosage levels in this range
A 2011 UK study that is widely considered the most comprehensive and credible on the issue, assessed and compiled the harmfulness of drugs by a variety of rubrics according to experts from a multitude of perspectives and specialties within the field of addictionology. They placed alcohol in the intermediate level group. It is physically addictive.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome can be deadly, potentially including seizures and delirium. It is primarily characterized by the nervous system being in a state of hyper-excitability. This occurs from the fall in blood-levels of any sedative-hypnotic after neuro-adaptation has occurred and can be rectified with the introduction of the substance, alcohol in this case, or any cross-tolerant drug. Discuss kindling effect
Symptoms of Primary Alcohol Withdrawal Include:
- Alcoholic hallucinations
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Delirium tremens
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Hyperthermia (fever)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rebound REM sleep
Overdose on alcohol becomes possible with a blood alcohol content of anything greater than .3%. At these levels central nervous system depression, unconsciousness, impaired breathing and bladder function, and slowed heart rate and breathing are all likely.
Many overdoses occur when alcohol is mixed with other depressants, such as opiates, muscles relaxers, benzodiazepines and barbiturates. When mixed with other substances, the risk of an alcohol related respiratory complication or overdose drastically increases.