Ethanol (Alcohol)

What is it?
First Aid

What is ethanol?

Ethanol is a drug that is also known as ethyl alcohol. It is the type of alcohol found in beer, wine and liquor. Ethanol is also found in some mouthwashes, medications and cooking products.

Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol is safe for adults most of the time. According to the USDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a moderate amount of alcohol is one drink a day or less for women or two drinks a day or less for men.

A drink of alcohol is defined as:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of spirits (1 shot)

Alcohol can be harmful in the following situations:

What happens if you drink too much alcohol?

If you drink too much alcohol at one time you may:

  • Feel dizzy
  • Have trouble walking
  • Throw up
  • Have poor judgment
  • Have slowed reflexes
  • Be aggressive

What are the symptoms of alcohol poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is serious and sometimes deadly. If you have alcohol poisoning you may:

  • Become very sleepy
  • Have trouble breathing or stop breathing
  • Throw up, and possibly choke
  • Go into a coma, or even die

Someone who has had too much to drink may look like they are sleeping soundly, but they can still develop alcohol poisoning while they are asleep. Never leave someone to “sleep off” alcohol poisoning.

What are the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?

If you drink a lot of alcohol frequently and suddenly stop you can go into alcohol withdrawal. You may:

  • Have headaches
  • Have shakes
  • Feel nervous or anxious
  • Feel like your heart isn’t beating normally
  • Have a hard time sleeping

In serious cases, you may have delirium tremors (DTs). This is a life-threatening condition where you may:

  • Feel like your heart is beating too fast
  • Sweat a lot
  • Have a high temperature
  • Feel confused

What can you do about alcohol poisoning?

If you have questions about alcohol, alcohol poisoning or alcohol withdrawal, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511.

If you think someone has alcohol poisoning or alcohol withdrawal, or the person has passed out or is not breathing, call 911 right away.

How can you prevent alcohol poisoning?

  • To prevent alcohol poisoning among young children, store alcohol up high, out of reach of children and pets. Do not leave open containers or glasses of alcohol unattended.
  • Read the labels on all your prescription and over-the-counter medications. They may tell you to avoid drinking alcohol while taking the medication. If you are unsure, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
  • For information on preventing alcohol abuse in teens and adults, or on dealing with alcohol addiction (alcoholism), visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Last Updated: Friday March 25th 2016