Ethanol abuse is a form of alcohol abuse. Ethanol is a clear, colorless liquid in all alcoholic beverages, although amounts vary. If you drink liquor, beer, or wine, it will have some ethanol alcohol.

Ethyl alcohol is another term for ethanol, and in its pure form, it’s a cleaning agent or antiseptic in products like hand sanitizer. Of course, when talking about ethanol, the pure substance is rarely being discussed. Ethanol alcohol tends to be easier to drink since it’s diluted.

  • The production of ethanol occurs when grains or fruit go through fermentation. 
  • The ethanol in alcohol affects your mood and reactions and leads to the effects we commonly associate with drinking.
  • Different drinks are going to have varying concentrations of grain alcohol. The ethanol concentration is typically expressed as a percentage of alcohol by volume, abbreviated as ABV.
  • When you purchase different types of alcohol, you’ll see ABV on the label.
  • When you’re abusing alcohol, it essentially means you’re abusing any alcoholic beverage.
  • Despite the association with clear liquids, ethanol again is in every type of beverage with alcohol.

Does The Amount of Ethanol Vary in Alcoholic Drinks?

Wine, beer, and spirits are different strengths from one another.

  • Spirits, another word for liquor, usually have the highest alcohol concentrations. Most have an ABV of around 40%. 
  • Some vodkas may have around 30% ethanol, and bourbons can have an ABV of around 60%. 
  • High-proof liquor can have as much as 95% ethanol alcohol content.
  • Liqueurs usually have an ABV that’s 20 percent alcohol or lower.
  • Wine has a lower concentration than spirits. The ABV may be around 12-15% for most types of wine, although some are higher.

What is Ethanol Abuse?

Ethanol abuse means someone is abusing alcohol of any kind. Non-problematic use of alcohol might include the occasional cocktail or glass of wine.

For low alcohol use, there may even be an associated lower risk of heart attack and stroke. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the consumption of ethanol, also known by the abbreviation for ethyl alcohol, EtOH should be limited to no more than one drink a day for women or two for men.

Alcohol use can turn into a problem for some people.

Signs of ethanol abuse and substance abuse in general include:

  • Hiding alcohol or storing large amounts
  • Having a high tolerance means you drink increasingly large amounts to feel the desired effects
  • Changes in mood or behavior when drinking
  • Experiencing blackout periods due to drinking
  • Choosing to drink instead of doing other activities
  • Continuing to use alcohol despite known adverse consequences of doing so
  • Lack of control over your consumption of alcohol
  • Frequently drinking more than you plan to

While alcohol abuse doesn’t automatically mean you have an addiction or alcohol use disorder, it often leads to that. When alcohol addiction develops, it increases the risk of short- and long-term health consequences and problems in your daily life and functionality.

There are situations where any amount of alcohol can be considered abuse. For example, drinking can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome if you’re pregnant. The safe limit for alcohol for pregnant women is zero drinks. 

ethanol abuse

The following are five facts about ethanol abuse to know.

1. ABV Matters

We mentioned the ABV measure above or alcohol by volume. ABV is specifically a measure of ethanol. If you have a lower-ABV drink, you can conclude that you will feel fewer effects of ethanol in most cases. 

ABV can indicate not only how you feel after drinking something. It can also tell you how something might taste. Compare the taste of liquor with a high ABV to beer with a lower ABV.

ABV is not the same as proof. Both measure the alcohol content a beverage contains, but the proof is twice the alcohol by volume number.

If you have a drink that has a 20% ABV, it’s 40 proof.

2. ABV Isn’t the Same As BAC

Another measure related to alcohol is blood alcohol concentration or BAC. BAC is the percentage of alcohol (ethanol) in your bloodstream.

If you have a BAC of 0.10%, your blood supply has one part of alcohol for every 1000 parts of blood.

Typically, you’re considered intoxicated if you have a BAC of 0.08% or higher in the legal system.

What you drink, how you drink, and your physical characteristics can affect your BAC.

Some of the particular things affecting BAC include:

  • Your sex
  • Number of standard drinks
  • The amount of time you consume drinks
  • Bodyweight
  • Enzyme levels and production
  • Whether you ate
  • Medications

3. A “Standard” Drink is Often Much Smaller Than People Realize

When we see guidelines for safe alcohol consumption or symptoms of ethanol abuse, they’re often accompanied by the term “standard drink.”

For example, when medical and regulatory officials say that it’s likely safe for women to have no more than one standard drink a day, this is a specific measurement.

So many people are shocked to realize how little a standard drink actually is. We’re used to heavy pours, to the point that you could be bordering on alcohol abuse without realizing it. For example, if you have just “two drinks a night,” but they’re the equivalent of four standard drinks, it may be an issue.

The amount of liquid you consume isn’t automatically a standard drink, just because it’s in one glass or container. 

In the United States, a standard drink contains around 14 grams of pure alcohol or ethanol.

That will be the equivalent of five ounces of wine if it’s 12% alcohol. A standard drink would be 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, assuming it’s 40% alcohol, or 12 ounces of beer, with 5% alcohol.

4. Ethanol Abuse Has Serious Short and Long-Term Effects

Heavy drinking can lead to an alcohol use disorder and many serious health effects in both the short and long-term.

Short-term effects of abusing alcohol and alcohol dependence can include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Loss of awareness and coordination
  • Blackouts or poor memory
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Dehydration
  • Risky behaviors
  • Injuries

Long-term alcohol abuse effects can include:

5. Certain Patterns Are Associated with a Higher Risk of An Alcohol Use Disorder

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), certain drinking patterns might not seem harmful yet can be.

Women who drink three or fewer alcoholic beverages in a day and no more than seven drinks per week may still be at risk for developing an alcohol use disorder. Men who have four drinks a day and no more than 14 a week may also be at risk.

Ethanol abuse affects the body, the brain, lifestyle, and relationships. 

If you’re concerned about your alcohol use or concerned about a loved one, reach out to Silicon Valley Recovery by calling 408-547-4089 to learn about treatment programs that are available in the San Francisco bay area.

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