Toxicity

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Alcohols often have an odor described as 'biting' that 'hangs' in the nasal passages. Ethanol in the form of alcoholic beverages has been consumed by humans since pre-historic times, for a variety of hygienic, dietary, medicinal, religious, and recreational reasons. While infrequent consumption of ethanol in small quantities may be harmless or even beneficial, larger doses result in a state known as drunkenness or intoxication (which may lead to a hangover as the effect wears off) and, depending on the dose and regularity of use, can cause acute respiratory failure or death and with chronic use has medical repercussions. Because alcohol impairs judgment, it can often be a catalyst for reckless or irresponsible behavior. The LD50 of ethanol in rats is 11,300 mg/kg. This ratio would correspond to an 80kg (176.4lb) man drinking 65 shots of 80 proof alcohol, although the LD50 does not necessarily translate directly to humans. A more accurate but less precise figure would estimate the LD50 of the same 80kg (176.4lb) at about 15.5 shots of 80 proof alcohol.

Other alcohols are substantially more poisonous than ethanol, partly because they take much longer to be metabolized, and often their metabolism produces even more toxic substances. Methanol, or wood alcohol, for instance, is oxidized by alcohol dehydrogenase enzymes in the liver to the poisonous formaldehyde, which can cause blindness or death.

An effective treatment to prevent formaldehyde toxicity after methanol ingestion is to administer ethanol. Alcohol dehydrogenase has a higher affinity for ethanol, thus preventing methanol from binding and acting as a substrate. Any remaining methanol will then have time to be excreted through the kidneys. Remaining formaldehyde will be converted to formic acid and excreted.

Alcohol
Everyone knows they should not drink too much. But how much is too much? This article includes the latest information on drinking guidelines from around the world.

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