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Written By
Matt Gonzales
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14 Cited Research Articles

EtOH is a medical term for ethanol, the primary ingredient in alcoholic drinks that causes intoxication. Ethanol is the only safely consumable form of alcohol, but it is also used in scents, flavorings, colorings and medicines.

EtOH stands for ethyl alcohol, or ethanol. This clear substance is found in alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine and liquor. The term EtOH is commonly used in academic research and in medical circles when referring to alcohol.

Alcohol is the most popular psychoactive drug in the United States. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 136.7 million people aged 12 or older used alcohol and about 15.1 million people had an alcohol addiction in 2016. Beer, wine and distilled spirits are generally the most common types of alcohol Americans drink.


Beer is a popular alcoholic beverage made from grain, hops, malt, yeast and water. In the United States, the alcohol content of beer generally ranges from three to six percent. However, malts, lager and ale drinks typically have higher levels of alcohol.


The alcohol content of most American wines runs between 9 percent and 14 percent. Fortified wines contain additional alcohol or brandy to increase the alcohol content, which often exceeds 14 percent.


Distilled spirits typically contain more alcohol than beer or wine. A 2014 report by the World Health Organization found that spirits was the second most popular form of alcohol among Americans.

Grain alcohol is a purified form of ethanol typically made from grains such as barley, corn, rye and wheat. Sometimes marketed as moonshine, it contains significantly more alcohol than beer and can even be twice as strong as vodka.

Bacardi 151, a type of grain alcohol, is a type of rum composed of about 75 percent alcohol. Everclear is a popular grain alcohol that comes in two forms: 151-proof and 190-proof. A 190-proof bottle of grain alcohol contains 95 percent alcohol.

Grain alcohol is a popular drink mixer among college students. And according to a study for the Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems, binge-drinking college students are more than 36 times more likely than those who don’t binge drink to consume grain alcohol.

Because of their high alcohol content, 190-proof grain alcohols such as moonshine are banned from use in Maryland and at least a dozen other states.

How Ethanol Affects the Body

Ethanol is a powerful depressant that affects the central nervous system. It can lead to problems in the brain, heart, liver, pancreas and immune system. Chronic ethanol use can cause tuberculosis, pneumonia and other infections.

Consuming a moderate amount of the substance can relax the muscles, affect coordination and impair judgement. Drinking large amounts of the substance can lead to alcohol addiction, alcohol poisoning and overdose.

Other consequences of EtOH abuse include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Stroke
  • Fibrosis
  • Stretching and drooping of the heart muscle
  • Cancer

Alcohol abuse can lead to problems at home, school and work. People who develop a substance use disorder compulsively seek alcohol despite knowing the social, legal and health effects of alcohol.

Those who abuse EtOH may have disruptive sleep habits, exhibit erratic behavior and lose control over their substance use. If you believe you have a substance use disorder, consider seeking alcohol rehab to receive evidence-based treatment that can help you achieve sobriety and improve your health.

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