|Summary sheet: Alcohol|
|Common names||Alcohol, Booze, Liquor, Moonshine, Sauce, Juice|
|Substitutive name||Ethyl alcohol, EtOH|
|Routes of Administration|
Ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol, ethyl hydroxide, drinking alcohol or simply alcohol) is a naturally-occurring depressant substance of the alcohol class. It is the primary psychoactive component of alcoholic drinks, making it the most widely used recreational substance throughout the world. Ethanol principally acts by binding to GABA receptors in parts of the brain.
The practice of consuming ethanol in the form of alcoholic drinks predates written history. Alcoholic beverages have been produced and consumed by humans since the Neolithic Era, from hunter-gatherer communities to nation-states. In modern times, drinking alcohol is the most commonly used legal recreational substance in the world. More than 100 countries have laws regulating its production, sale, and consumption.
Subjective effects include sedation, disinhibition, anxiety suppression, empathy, affection and sociability enhancement, muscle relaxation, and euphoria. However, the degree to which these effects are present can depend somewhat on the method of production and degree of distillation. Alcoholic beverages are divided into three classes: beers, wines, and spirits (distilled beverages).
Despite sometimes being considered harmless on basis of its legality and widespread use, ethanol is capable of causing significant harm and toxicity to the user. It is considered to have moderate abuse potential and chronic use is associated with escalating tolerance, physical dependence, and addiction. Additionally, chronic use is associated with negative effects on the brain and other organs. There is also a substantial risk of fatal respiratory overdose when it is combined with other depressants (e.g. benzodiazepines, opioids). As a result, it is highly advised to use harm reduction practices if using this substance.
History and culture
Alcohol was brewed as early as 7000 to 6650 BCE in northern China. Beer was likely brewed from barley as early as the sixth century BCE in Egypt. Pliny the Elder wrote about the golden age of winemaking in Rome, the second century BCE, when vineyards were planted. In vino veritas is a Latin phrase that means "in wine there is truth."
The global alcoholic beverages industry exceeded $1 trillion in 2018.
Alcohol and religion
- Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'ís are forbidden to drink alcohol or to take drugs unless prescribed by doctors. Accordingly, the sale and trafficking of such substances is also prohibited. Smoking is discouraged but not prohibited.
Although in the Quraan there is no clear verse prohibiting alcohol, most of Sunni Muslim denominations consider alcohol haram (prohibited) unless it's used is for medical purposes.
The Alevi Muslims of Turkey permit alcohol, unlike many other denominations. Ismaili Muslims are also noted for discouraging, rather than prohibiting alcohol. The Zaidi and Mutazili sects believe that the use of alcohol has always been forbidden and refers to the Qur'an Ayah (4:43) as a feeling of sleepiness and not to be awake. In Surah Al-Ma'idah (Chapter 5), verse 90, it is stated that intoxicants are to be avoided:
The moderationist position is held by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, and within Protestantism, it is accepted by Anglicans, Lutherans and many reformed churches. Moderationism is also accepted by Jehovah's Witnesses. Other denominations use unfermented grape juice in Communion; they either voluntarily abstain from alcohol or prohibit it outright.
Judaism uses wine on Shabbat and some Jewish holidays for Kiddush as well as more extensively in the Passover ceremony and other religious ceremonies. The secular consumption of alcohol is allowed. During the Jewish holiday of Purim, Jews are obligated to drink until their judgmental abilities become impaired. Recovering alcoholics or others who might suffer serious harm from alcohol are exempt from this obligation. However, religious groups, including Orthodox Union (OU), National Council for Synagogue Youth (NCSY), and Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others (JACS), are protesting drinking on purim following a rise in teen alcoholism.
"Social drinking", also commonly referred to as "responsible drinking," refers to casual drinking in a social setting without an intent to get drunk. Good news is often celebrated by a group of people having a few drinks. For example, drinks may be served in the celebration of a birth. Buying someone a drink is a gesture of goodwill. It may be an expression of gratitude, or it may mark the resolution of a dispute.
In countries that have a drinking culture, social stigma may cause many people not to view alcohol as a drug because it is an important part of social events. In these countries, many young binge drinkers prefer to call themselves hedonists rather than binge drinkers or recreational drug users. Undergraduate students often position themselves outside the categories of "serious" or "anti-social" drinkers, or "drugged" while drunk. However, about 40 percent of college students in the United States could be considered alcoholics according to new criteria in DSM-5 but most college binge drinkers and drug users don't develop lifelong problems.
In 2015, among Americans, 89% of adults had consumed alcoholic drinks at some point, 70% had drunk it in the last year, and 56% in the last month.
Starting from the 2000s, the advent of a new subculture that prefers not to drink has been observed.
Date rape drug
Alcohol is widely available and can be used as anxiolytic to calm a bad trip for substances that don't interact with it, if better suited medications like benzodiazepines or antipsychotics are not available.
Ethanol is the second simplest compound of the alcohol family. The structure of ethanol is comprised of a chain of two carbon atoms, known as ethane, with a hydroxyl (-OH) functional group attached to form an alcohol.
Alcoholic drinks contain ethanol but also smaller amounts of several other alcohols that act as psychoactive drugs with different degrees of potency and effects and also contribute to the color, odor, and flavor of beverages.
Psychoactive alcohols found in drinks
In general, the labels of beverages containing significant alcohol by volume (ABV) must state the actual alcoholic strength (i.e., "x% alc. by vol."), this helps prevent people from unknowingly driving under the influence of alcohol or engaging in other risky behavior without awareness of their level of intoxication. The term alcohol principally refers to the primary alcohol ethanol, the dominating alcohol in alcoholic beverages that are subject to alcohol laws including alcohol monopoly and alcohol taxes in countries that regulate their sale and consumption. However, since then other alcohols have been identified, including 1-Propanol found in Jamaican rum, which contributes an estimated 21% to the total alcohol intoxication in 40% ABV rum. A tertiary alcohol named tert-Amyl alcohol (2M2B) has been identified in beer (the third-most popular drink overall, after drinking water and tea). tert-Amyl alcohol is sometimes used as a recreational drug.
Some beverages such as rum, whisky (especially Bourbon whiskey), incompletely rectified vodka (e.g. Siwucha), and traditional ales and ciders are expected to contain non-hazardous[clarification needed] aroma alcohols as part of their flavor profile. European legislation demands a minimum content of higher alcohols[clarification needed] in certain distilled beverages (spirits) to give them their expected distinct flavour.
Alcohols are a highly-diverse chemical class of organic compounds that contain one or more hydroxyl functional groups (-OH) bound to a carbon atom. Alcohols are classified into primary, secondary (sec-, s-), and tertiary (tert-, t-), based upon the number of carbon atoms connected to the carbon atom that bears the hydroxyl functional group.
Ethanol has a variety of structural analogs, many of which have similar effects.
In the alcoholic drinks industry, congeners are substances produced during ethanol fermentation. These substances include small amounts of more potent chemicals such as occasionally desired other alcohols, like 1-Propanol, 2-Methyl-1-butanol (2M1B), 2-Methyl-1-propanol (2M1P), and 3-methyl-1-butanol (3M1B), but also compounds that are never desired such as acetone, acetaldehyde, and glycols. Congeners are responsible for most of the taste and aroma of distilled alcoholic drinks and contribute to the taste of non-distilled drinks.
Methanol (methyl alcohol, wood alcohol) and isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol, rubbing alcohol) are toxic and are not safe for human consumption. Methanol is the most toxic alcohol; the toxicity of isopropanol lies between that of ethanol and methanol, and is about twice that of ethanol. In general, higher alcohols are less toxic. n-Butanol is reported to produce similar effects to those of ethanol and relatively low toxicity (one-sixth of that of ethanol in one rat study). However, its vapors can produce eye irritation and inhalation can cause pulmonary edema. Acetone (propanone) is a ketone rather than an alcohol, and is reported to produce similar toxic effects; it can be extremely damaging to the cornea.
The tertiary alcohol tert-Amyl alcohol (TAA), also known as 2-methylbutan-2-ol (2M2B), has a history of use as a hypnotic and anesthetic, as do other tertiary alcohols such as methylpentynol, ethchlorvynol, and chloralodol. Unlike primary alcohols like ethanol, these tertiary alcohols cannot be oxidized into aldehyde or carboxylic acid metabolites, which are often toxic, and for this reason, these compounds are safer in comparison. Also, surrogate alcohol products are not subject to alcohol tax. However, their use has phased out in response to newer drugs with far more favorable safety profiles like chloral hydrate, paraldehyde, and many volatile and inhalational anesthetics (e.g., chloroform, diethyl ether, and isoflurane).
Ethanol in low doses causes euphoria, reduced anxiety, and sociability and in higher doses causes alcohol intoxication (drunkenness), stupor, unconsciousness, and generalized depression of central nervous system function. Long-term use can lead to alcohol abuse, physical dependence, and alcoholism.
Alcohol can be addictive to humans and can result in alcohol tolerance, alcohol withdrawal syndrome, drug dependence or alcoholism. It has a number of adverse effects on health. The drug has been adjudged to be neurotoxic when consumed in sufficient quantities. In high doses or overdose, alcohol may cause loss of consciousness or, in severe cases, death. It is a causative factor for many traffic accidents and fatalities due to intoxicated driving.
In the past, alcohol was believed to be a non-specific pharmacological agent affecting many neurotransmitter systems in the brain. However, molecular pharmacology studies have shown that alcohol has only a few primary targets. These effects are facilitatory in some systems and inhibitory in others.
Among the neurotransmitter systems with enhanced functions are:
- GABA: In a fashion similar to benzodiazepines and barbiturates, an enhancement of the inhibitory system known as GABA induces neurological inhibition. This depresses the behavioral inhibitory centers, slows down the processing of information from the senses, inhibits thought processes and generally induces suppression of both normal physical and cognitive functioning.
- 5-HT3 receptor agonism
- Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
- Adenosine:Ethanol blocks adenosine uptake via inhibiting the nucleoside transport system in bronchial epithelial cells. Inhibition of adenosine uptake by ethanol leads to an increased extracellular adenosine accumulation, influencing the effect of adenosine at the epithelial cell surface, which may alter airway homeostasis.
Among those that are inhibited are:
- Glutamate: By making this excitatory neurotransmitter less effective, neurological functioning is further inhibited. Alcohol does this by interacting with the receptors on the receiving cells in these pathways and blocking glutamate from binding to NMDA receptors and triggering electrochemical signals.
The result of these direct effects is a wave of further indirect effects involving a variety of other neurotransmitter and neuropeptide systems, leading finally to the behavioural or symptomatic effects of alcohol intoxication. It's worth noting, however, that in terms of how these processes directly result in the subjective experience of ethanol intoxication, the exact mechanisms are still largely unknown beyond speculation.
The onset varies depends on the type of alcoholic drink:
- Vodka/tonic: 36 ± 10 minutes
- Wine: 54 ± 14 minutes
- Beer: 62 ± 23 minutes
Also, carbonated alcoholic drinks seem to have a shorter onset compare to flat drinks in the same volyme. One theory is that carbon dioxide in the bubbles somehow speeds the flow of alcohol into the intestines.
Drinking alcohols can be consumed either as:
- Alcoholic drink: An alcoholic drink is commonly known as alcohol and causing the characteristic effects of alcohol intoxication or "drunkenness". Alcoholic drinks are typically divided into three classes—beers, wines, and spirits—and typically contain between 3% and 40% alcohol by volume. Also, alcoholic drinks typically contain 3%–40% ethyl alcohol (ethanol), but beer contain 0.07% 2M2B which is 20 times more potent, thus contributing to 28% (0.07×20÷5 ) of the alcohol intoxication, Jamaican rum contains 2.8% 1-propanol which is 3 times more potent, thus contributing to 21% (2,8×3÷40) of the alcohol intoxication (see table).
- Rectified spirits: Rectified spirit is also known as neutral spirits, rectified alcohol. In its undiluted form, it contains at least 95% alcohol by volume (ABV) (190 US proof) in the United States, or at least 96% ABV in the European Union, respectively. The purity of rectified spirit has a practical limit of 97.2% ABV (95.6% by mass) Other alcohols than ethanol are produced for industrial use as solvents (eg 2M2B and 1-Propanol) but have been used as novel drugs (if not denatured) and are usually not subject to alcohol laws like alcohol tax and legal drinking age.
- Hazardous alcohols like methanol (used in denatured alcohol and wood alcohol) and isopropanol (many varieties of rubbing alcohol) are potentially lethal.
Recipes and preparation methods
Disclaimer: The effects listed below cite the Subjective Effect Index (SEI), an open research literature based on anecdotal user reports and the personal analyses of PsychonautWiki contributors. As a result, they should be viewed with a healthy degree of skepticism.
It is also worth noting that these effects will not necessarily occur in a predictable or reliable manner, although higher doses are more liable to induce the full spectrum of effects. Likewise, adverse effects become increasingly likely with higher doses and may include addiction, severe injury, or death ☠.
- Sedation & Stimulation
- Muscle relaxation
- Pain relief
- Physical euphoria
- Appetite enhancement
- Motor control loss
- Body odor alteration - This effect is present at all dosages, and becomes more pronounced the higher the dosage is. This results from the liver's inability to eliminate all alcohol present within one's system. Alcohol not eliminated by the liver will then be eliminated via the kidneys, lungs, and through perspiration (sweating), the latter of which causes a change in body odor, as well as increased perspiration.
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased perspiration
- Difficulty urinating & Frequent urination
- Temperature regulation suppression
- Increased bodily temperature or Decreased bodily temperature - It is a common myth that alcohol intoxication can lower the chances of experiencing hypothermia when, in fact, it actually increases the chances of hypothermia in part due to temperature regulation suppression. Even small amounts of alcohol can begin to slow down the mechanisms that help maintain a normal body core temperature.
- Respiratory depression - This effect becomes more pronounced at heavier dosages, and may lead or contribute to a loss of consciousness ("blacking out"), or in extreme cases, death.
- Skin flushing
- Tactile suppression - This effect is not usually as pronounced as it is with substances such as ketamine or PCP, but can still manifest itself in varying degrees of intensity.
- Temporary erectile dysfunction
- Analysis suppression
- Anxiety suppression
- Cognitive euphoria
- Compulsive redosing
- Creativity suppression
- Delusions of sobriety - This is the false belief that one is perfectly sober despite obvious evidence to the contrary such as severe cognitive impairment and an inability to fully communicate with others.
- Ego inflation
- Empathy, affection, and sociability enhancement
- Emotion enhancement
- Focus suppression
- Increased music appreciation
- Increased libido
- Information processing suppression
- Language suppression
- Memory suppression
- Sleepiness - This effect is experienced almost exclusively in low or high dosages. Small doses of alcohol can cause many users to feel anywhere from mildly to extremely tired whereas moderate doses can actually lead to feelings of stimulation and wakefulness. On very high amounts, however, chances of the individual becoming unconscious are much greater.
- Suggestibility suppression
- Thought deceleration
- Thought disorganization
The effects which occur during the offset of an alcohol intoxication generally feel negative and uncomfortable in comparison to the effects which occurred during its peak. This is often referred to as a "comedown" or "hangover" and occurs mainly because of dehydration in part due to diuresis. Its effects commonly include:
- Delirium tremens
- Appetite suppression
- Cognitive fatigue and Physical fatigue
- Information processing suppression
- Sleep paralysis - Some users experience sleep paralysis after alcohol consumption; it is usually associated with consistent usage.
- Thought deceleration
There are currently no anecdotal reports which describe the effects of this compound within our experience index. Additional experience reports can be found here:
Alcohols, in various forms, are used within medicine as an antiseptic, disinfectant, and antidote. Aside from these uses, alcohol has no other well-accepted medical uses, the therapeutic index of ethanol is only 10:1.
Taken by mouth or intravenously it is used to treat methanol or ethylene glycol toxicity when fomepizole is not available. Ethanol acts as a competitive inhibitor with other alcohols for the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme, lessening metabolism into toxic aldehyde and carboxylic acid derivatives, and reducing one of the more serious toxic effect of the glycols to crystallize in the kidneys.
Toxicity and harm potential
The sensible use of alcohol in the short term is extremely unlikely to have any positive or detrimental effects on one's physical health. However, despite the widespread use and alcohol's legality in most countries, many medical sources tend to describe any level of alcohol intoxication as a form of poisoning due to ethanol's damaging effects on the body in large doses.
The long-term effects of alcohol consumption range from cardioprotective health benefits for low to moderate alcohol consumption in industrialized societies with higher rates of cardiovascular disease to severe detrimental effects in cases of chronic alcohol abuse.
High levels of alcohol consumption are associated with an increased risk of alcoholism, malnutrition, chronic pancreatitis, alcoholic liver disease, and cancer. In addition, damage to the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system can occur from chronic alcohol abuse. The long-term use of alcohol is capable of damaging nearly every organ and system in the body. The developing adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of alcohol. In addition, the developing fetal brain is also vulnerable, and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) may result if pregnant mothers consume alcohol.
Alcoholic drinks are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a Group 1 carcinogen (carcinogenic to humans). IARC classifies alcoholic drink consumption as a cause of cancer for female breast, colorectum, larynx, liver, esophagus, oral cavity, and pharynx; and as a probable cause of pancreatic cancer. Alcohol in soft drinks is absorbed faster than alcohol in non-carbonated drinks.
Recommended maximum intake of alcoholic beverages
There is no global consensus on recommended maximum intake (or safe limits) of the drug alcohol (also known informally as ethanol). The guidelines provided by health agencies of governments are varied and are shown below. These recommendations concerning maximum intake are distinct from any legal restrictions (e.g. driving after consuming alcohol) that may apply in those countries. The American Heart Association recommends that those who do not already consume alcoholic beverages should not start doing so because of the negative long-term effects of alcohol consumption.
Wine, beer, distilled spirits, and other alcoholic drinks contain ethyl alcohol and alcohol consumption has short-term psychological and physiological effects on the user. Different concentrations of alcohol in the human body have different effects on a person. The effects of alcohol depend on the amount an individual has drunk, the percentage of alcohol in the wine, beer or spirits and the timespan that the consumption took place, the amount of food eaten and whether an individual has taken other prescription, over-the-counter or street drugs, among other factors.
Drinking enough to cause a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.03%-0.12% typically causes an overall improvement in mood and possible euphoria, increased self-confidence and sociability, decreased anxiety, an alcohol flush reaction (red appearance in the face) and impaired judgment and fine muscle coordination. A BAC of 0.09% to 0.25% causes lethargy, sedation, balance problems and blurred vision. A BAC from 0.18% to 0.30% causes profound confusion, impaired speech (e.g., slurred speech), staggering, dizziness and vomiting. A BAC from 0.25% to 0.40% causes stupor, unconsciousness, anterograde amnesia, vomiting (death may occur due to inhalation of vomit (pulmonary aspiration) while unconscious) and respiratory depression (potentially life-threatening). A BAC from 0.35% to 0.80% causes a coma (unconsciousness), life-threatening respiratory depression and possibly fatal alcohol poisoning. As with all alcoholic drinks, drinking while driving, operating an aircraft or heavy machinery increases the risk of an accident; many countries have penalties against drunk driving.
Death from ethanol consumption is possible when blood alcohol levels reach 0.4%. A blood level of 0.5% or more is commonly fatal. Levels of even less than 0.1% can cause intoxication with unconsciousness often occurring at 0.3–0.4%.
It is strongly recommended that one use harm reduction practices when using this substance.
The main active ingredient of wine, beer and distilled spirits is alcohol. Drinking small quantities of alcohol (less than one drink in women and two in men per day) is debated to decreased the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and early death. Drinking more than this amount, however, increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, and stroke. The risk is greater in younger people due to binge drinking which may result in violence or accidents. About 3.3 million deaths (5.9% of all deaths) are believed to be due to alcohol each year. Alcoholism reduces a person's life expectancy by around ten years and alcohol use is the third leading cause of early death in the United States. No professional medical association recommends that people who are nondrinkers should start drinking wine. Another long-term effect of alcohol usage, when also used with tobacco products, is alcohol acting as a solvent, which allows harmful chemicals in tobacco to get inside the cells that line the digestive tract. Alcohol slows these cells' healing ability to repair the damage to their DNA caused by the harmful chemicals in tobacco. Alcohol contributes to cancer through this process.
While lower quality evidence suggests a cardioprotective effect, no controlled studies have been completed on the effect of alcohol on the risk of developing heart disease or stroke. Excessive consumption of alcohol can cause liver cirrhosis and alcoholism. The American Heart Association "cautions people NOT to start drinking ... if they do not already drink alcohol. Consult your doctor on the benefits and risks of consuming alcohol in moderation."
Tolerance and addiction potential
The chronic use of this compound can be considered extremely addictive with a high potential for abuse and is capable of causing psychological dependence among certain users. When addiction has developed, cravings and withdrawal effects may occur if a person suddenly stops their usage.
Tolerance to many of the effects of alcohol develops with prolonged and repeated use. This results in users having to administer increasingly large doses to achieve the same effects. After that, it takes about 3 - 7 days for the tolerance to be reduced to half and 1 - 2 weeks to be back at baseline (in the absence of further consumption). Alcohol presents cross-tolerance with all GABAgenic depressants, meaning that after the consumption of alcohol all depressants will have a reduced effect.
Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a broad term for any drinking of alcohol that results in mental or physical health problems. It was previously divided into two types: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. In a medical context, alcoholism is said to exist when two or more of the following conditions is present: a person drinks large amounts over a long time period, has difficulty cutting down, acquiring and drinking alcohol takes up a great deal of time, alcohol is strongly desired, usage results in not fulfilling responsibilities, usage results in social problems, usage results in health problems, usage results in risky situations, Alcohol withdrawal syndrome|withdrawal occurs when stopping, and alcohol tolerance has occurred with use. Risky situations include driving under the influence|drinking and driving or having unsafe sex among others. Alcohol use can affect all parts of the body but particularly affects the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and immune system. This can result in mental illness, Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, an arrhythmia|irregular heart beat, cirrhosis|liver failure, and an increase in the risk of cancer, among other diseases. Drinking during pregnancy can cause damage to the baby resulting in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Generally women are more sensitive to alcohol's harmful physical and mental effects than men.
Chronic excess alcohol intake can lead to a wide range of neuropsychiatric or neurological impairment, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and malignant neoplasms. The psychiatric disorders which are associated with alcoholism include major depression, dysthymia, mania, hypomania, panic disorder, phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, personality disorders, schizophrenia, suicide, neurologic deficits (e.g., impairments of working memory, emotions, executive functions, visuospatial abilities, gait, and balance) and brain damage. Alcohol dependence is associated with hypertension, coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and also cancers of the respiratory system, the digestive system, liver, breast, and ovaries. Heavy drinking is associated with liver disease, such as cirrhosis.
|Main article: Alcohol withdrawal|
When physical dependence has developed, withdrawal symptoms may occur if a person suddenly stops their usage. The severity of withdrawal can vary from mild symptoms such as sleep disturbances and anxiety to severe and life-threatening symptoms such as delirium, hallucinations, and autonomic instability.
Withdrawal usually begins 6 to 24 hours after the last drink. To be classified as alcohol withdrawal syndrome, patients must exhibit at least two of the following symptoms: increased hand tremors, insomnia, nausea or vomiting, transient hallucinations (auditory, visual or tactile), psychomotor agitation, anxiety, tonic-clonic seizures, and autonomic instability.
The severity of symptoms is dictated by a number of factors, the most important of which is a degree of alcohol intake, length of time the individual has been using alcohol, and previous history of alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms are also grouped together and classified:
- Alcohol hallucinosis: Patients have transient visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations but are otherwise clear.
- Withdrawal seizures: Seizures occur within 48 hours of alcohol cessation and occur either as a single generalized tonic-clonic seizure or as a brief episode of multiple seizures.
- Delirium tremens: Hyperadrenergic state, disorientation, tremors, diaphoresis, impaired attention/consciousness, and visual and auditory hallucinations usually occur 24 to 72 hours after alcohol cessation. Delirium tremens is the most severe form of withdrawal and occurs in 5 to 20% of patients experiencing detoxification and 1/3 of patients experiencing withdrawal seizures.
Withdrawal symptoms and management
Signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal occur primarily in the central nervous system. The severity of withdrawal can vary from mild symptoms such as sleep disturbances and anxiety to severe and life-threatening symptoms such as delirium, hallucinations, and autonomic instability.
Withdrawal usually begins 6 to 24 hours after the last drink. It can last for up to one week. To be classified as alcohol withdrawal syndrome, patients must exhibit at least two of the following symptoms: increased hand tremor, insomnia, nausea or vomiting, transient hallucinations (auditory, visual or tactile), psychomotor agitation, anxiety, tonic-clonic seizures, and autonomic instability.
The severity of symptoms is dictated by a number of factors, the most important of which is degree of alcohol intake, length of time the individual has been using alcohol, and the previous history of alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms are also grouped together and classified:
- Alcohol hallucinosis: patients have transient visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations, but are otherwise clear.
- Withdrawal seizures: seizures occur within 48 hours of alcohol cessations and occur either as a single generalized tonic-clonic seizure or as a brief episode of multiple seizures.
- Delirium tremens: hyperadrenergic state, disorientation, tremors, diaphoresis, impaired attention/consciousness, and visual and auditory hallucinations. This usually occurs 24 to 72 hours after alcohol cessation. Delirium tremens is the most severe form of withdrawal and occurs in 5 to 20% of patients experiencing detoxification and 1/3 of patients experiencing withdrawal seizures.
Benzodiazepines are effective for the management of symptoms as well as the prevention of seizures. Certain vitamins are also an important part of the management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. In those with severe symptoms inpatient care is often required. In those with lesser symptoms treatment at home may be possible with daily visits with a health care provider.
- Disulfiram-like drugs: disulfiram, calcium carbimide, cyanamide
- Ibogaine - Rezvani reported reduced alcohol dependence in three strains of "alcohol preferring" rats in 1995.
- Naltrexone - Naltrexone has been best studied as a treatment for alcoholism. Naltrexone has been shown to decrease the amount and frequency of drinking. It does not appear to change the percentage of people drinking. Its overall benefit has been described as "modest".The Sinclair method is a method of using opiate antagonists such as naltrexone to treat alcoholism. The person takes the medication about an hour (and only then) before drinking to avoid side effects that arise from chronic use. The opioid antagonist blocks the positive-reinforcement effects of alcohol and allows the person to stop or reduce drinking.
Ethanol can intensify the sedation caused by other central nervous system depressant drugs such as barbiturates, benzodiazepines, opioids, nonbenzodiazepines/Z-drugs (such as zolpidem and zopiclone), antipsychotics, sedative antihistamines, and certain antidepressants. It interacts with cocaine in vivo to produce cocaethylene, another psychoactive substance. Ethanol enhances the bioavailability of methylphenidate (elevated plasma dexmethylphenidate).
Warning: Many psychoactive substances that are reasonably safe to use on their own can suddenly become dangerous and even life-threatening when combined with certain other substances. The following list provides some known dangerous interactions (although it is not guaranteed to include all of them).
Always conduct independent research (e.g. Google, DuckDuckGo, PubMed) to ensure that a combination of two or more substances is safe to consume. Some of the listed interactions have been sourced from TripSit.
- Depressants (1,4-Butanediol, 2M2B, alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, GHB/GBL, methaqualone, opioids) - This combination potentiates the muscle relaxation, amnesia, sedation, and respiratory depression caused by one another. At higher doses, it can lead to a sudden, unexpected loss of consciousness along with a dangerous amount of depressed respiration. There is also an increased risk of suffocating on one's vomit while unconscious. If nausea or vomiting occurs before a loss of consciousness, users should attempt to fall asleep in the recovery position or have a friend move them into it.
- Stimulants - It can be dangerous to combine depressants with stimulants due to the risk of accidental excessive intoxication. Stimulants mask the sedative effect of depressants, which is the main factor most people use to gauge their level of intoxication. Once the stimulant effects wear off, the effects of the depressant will significantly increase, leading to intensified disinhibition, motor control loss, and dangerous black-out states. This combination can also potentially result in severe dehydration if one's fluid intake is not closely monitored. If choosing to combine these substances, one should strictly limit themselves to a pre-set schedule of dosing only a certain amount per hour until a maximum threshold has been reached.
- Dissociatives - This combination can unpredictably potentiate the amnesia, sedation, motor control loss and delusions that can be caused by each other. It may also result in a sudden loss of consciousness accompanied by a dangerous degree of respiratory depression. If nausea or vomiting occurs before consciousness is lost, users should attempt to fall asleep in the recovery position or have a friend move them into it.
- Cannabis - In combination with cannabis, ethanol increases plasma tetrahydrocannabinol levels, which suggests that ethanol may increase the absorption of tetrahydrocannabinol. It is recommended that users who wish to combine these two substances start by consuming cannabis first as this reduces the chances of experiencing nausea, dizziness and double vision.
- Amphetamines - Drinking on stimulants is risky because the sedative effects of the alcohol are reduced, and these are what the body uses to gauge drunkenness. This typically leads to excessive drinking with greatly reduced inhibitions, high risk of liver damage and increased dehydration. They will also allow you to drink past a point where you might normally pass out, increasing the risk. If you do decide to do this then you should set a limit of how much you will drink each hour and stick to it, bearing in mind that you will feel the alcohol and the stimulant less. Extended release formulations may severely impede sleep, further worsening the hangover.
- AMT - aMT has a broad mechanism of action in the brain and so does alcohol so the combination can be unpredictable
- MDMA - Both MDMA and alcohol cause dehydration. Approach this combination with caution, moderation and sufficient hydration. More than a small amount of alcohol will dull the euphoria of MDMA
- Nitrous - Both substances potentiate the ataxia and sedation caused by the other and can lead to unexpected loss of consciousness at high doses. While unconscious, vomit aspiration is a risk if not placed in the recovery position. Memory blackouts are likely.
- SSRIs - Alcohol may potentiate some of the pharmacologic effects of CNS-active agents. Use in combination may result in additive central nervous system depression and/or impairment of judgment, thinking, and psychomotor skills."]
- Cocaine - Drinking on stimulants is risky because the sedative effects of the alcohol are reduced, and these are what the body uses to gauge drunkenness. This typically leads to excessive drinking with greatly reduced inhibitions, high risk of liver damage and increased dehydration. They will also allow you to drink past a point where you might normally pass out, increasing the risk. If you do decide to do this then you should set a limit of how much you will drink each hour and stick to it, bearing in mind that you will feel the alcohol less. Cocaine is potentiated somewhat by alcohol because of the formation of cocaethylene.
- MAOIs - Tyramine found in many alcoholic beverages can have dangerous reactions with MAOIs, causing an increase in blood pressure.
- PCP - Details of this combination are not well understood but PCP generally interacts in an unpredictable manner.
- Benzodiazepines - Ethanol ingestion may potentiate the CNS effects of many benzodiazepines. The two substances potentiate each other strongly and unpredictably, very rapidly leading to unconsciousness. While unconscious, vomit aspiration is a risk if not placed in the recovery position. Blacking out and memory loss is almost certain.
- DXM - Both substances potentiate the ataxia and sedation caused by the other and can lead to unexpected loss of consciousness at high doses. Place affected patients in the recovery position to prevent vomit aspiration from excess. Additionally, CNS depression can lead to difficulty breathing. Avoid on anything higher than 1st plateau.
- GHB/GBL - Even in very low doses this combination rapidly leads to memory loss, severe ataxia and unconsciousness. There is a high risk of vomit aspiration while unconscious.
- Ketamine - Both substances cause ataxia and bring a very high risk of vomiting and unconsciousness. If the user falls unconscious while under the influence there is a severe risk of vomit aspiration if they are not placed in the recovery position.
- MXE - There is a high risk of memory loss, vomiting and severe ataxia from this combination.
- Opioids - Both substances potentiate the ataxia and sedation caused by the other and can lead to unexpected loss of consciousness at high doses. Place affected patients in the recovery position to prevent vomit aspiration from excess. Memory blackouts are likely
- Tramadol - Heavy CNS depressants, risk of seizures. Both substances potentiate the ataxia and sedation caused by the other and can lead to unexpected loss of consciousness at high doses. Place affected patients in the recovery position to prevent vomit aspiration from excess. Memory blackouts are likely.
Over the counter (OTC) medicine interactions:
- Antibiotics - Certain antibiotics such as metronidazole, tinidazole, cephamandole, latamoxef, cefoperazone, cefmenoxime, and furazolidone, cause a disulfiram-like chemical reaction with alcohol by inhibiting its breakdown by acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, which may result in vomiting, nausea, and shortness of breath.
Alcohol is contraindicated in people with hepatic disease, gastrointestinal ulcer, cardiac or skeletal myopathy, pregnancy, and individuals previously addicted to ethanol.
Alcohol stimulates gastric juice production, even when food is not present, and as a result, its consumption will stimulate acidic secretions normally intended to digest protein molecules. Consequently, excess acidity may harm the inner lining of the stomach. The stomach lining is normally protected by a mucosal layer which prevents the stomach from essentially digesting itself. However, in patients who have peptic ulcer disease (PUD), this mucosal layer is broken down. PUD is commonly associated with the bacteria H. pylori. H. pylori secrete a toxin that weakens the mucosal wall, which as a result leads to acid and protein enzymes penetrating the weakened barrier. Because alcohol stimulates the stomach to secrete acid, a person with PUD should avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach. Drinking alcohol would cause more acid release which would further damage the already-weakened stomach wall. Complications of this disease could include burning pain in the abdomen, bloating and in severe cases, the presence of dark black stools indicate internal bleeding. A person who drinks alcohol regularly is strongly advised to reduce their intake to prevent PUD aggravation.
Ethanol-containing beverages can cause skin problems and bronchoconstriction in patients with a history of asthma. These reactions occur within 1–60 minutes of ethanol ingestion.
This legality section is a stub.
As such, it may contain incomplete or wrong information. You can help by expanding it.
Alcoholic beverages are legally consumed in most countries around the world. More than 100 countries have laws regulating their production, sale, and consumption. In particular, such laws often specify the legal drinking age, which usually varies between 16 and 25 years (sometimes depending on the type of drink). Some countries do not have a legal drinking or purchasing age but most set the age at 18 years.
There is no single standard, but a standard drink of 10g alcohol, which is used in the WHO AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test)'s questionnaire form example, have been adopted by more countries than any other amount. 10 grams is equivalent to 12.7 millilitres.
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