The Effects of Alcohol i.e. The Daredevil drops Science Vol. 1

Alcohol’s Properties

Alcohol is a general term denoting a family of organic chemicals with common properties. Members of this family include ethanol, methanol, isopropanol and others. This introduction discusses the physical, chemical and physiological aspects of the most commonly ingested of these – ethanol.

Alcohol (ethanol) is a clear, volatile liquid that burns (oxidizes) easily. It has a slight, characteristic odor and is soluble in water. Alcohol is an organic compound composed of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen; its chemical formula is C2H5OH. It is a central nervous system depressant and it is the central nervous system which is the body´s most severely affected by alcohol (see chart below). The degree to which the central nervous system function is impaired is somewhat proportional to the concentration of alcohol in the blood.

Photograph © Andrew Dunn, 21 June 2005.
Stewards from English Heritage try to remove a drunken reveler from standing on one of the stones at Stonehenge.

When ingested, alcohol passes from the stomach into the small intestine, where it is rapidly absorbed into the blood and distributed throughout the body. In low concentrations, alcohol reduces inhibitions. As blood alcohol concentration increases, a person’s response to stimuli decreases markedly, speech becomes slurred, and he or she becomes unsteady and has trouble walking. With very high concentrations – greater than 0.35 milligrams/100 milliliters of blood (equivalent to 0.35 grams/210 liters of breath ) – a person can become comatose and die. The following is a generally accepted guide to the affects of alcohol.

Stages of Alcohol Intoxication

BAC (mg/100 ml of blood or g/210 L of breath) Stage Behavioral Changes
0.01 – 0.05 Subclinical Behavior nearly normal by ordinary observation
0.03 – 0.12 Euphoria Mild euphoria, sociability, talkativeness
Increased self-confidence; decreased inhibitions
Diminution of attention, judgment and control
Beginning of sensory-motor impairment
Loss of efficiency in finer performance tests
0.09 – 0.25 Excitement Emotional instability; loss of critical judgment
Impairment of perception, memory and comprehension
Decreased sensatory response; increased reaction time
Reduced visual acuity; peripheral vision and glare recovery
Sensory-motor coordination impaired
Drowsiness
0.18 – 0.30 Confusion Disorientation, mental confusion; dizziness
Exaggerated emotional states
Disturbances of vision and of perception of color, form, motion and dimensions
Increased pain threshold
Increased muscular coordination impairment
Staggering gait; slurred speech
Apathy, lethargy
0.25 – 0.40 Stupor General inertia; approaching loss of motor functions
Markedly decreased response to stimuli
Marked muscular coordination impairment
Inability to stand or walk
Vomiting; incontinence
Impaired consciousness; sleep or stupor
0.35 – 0.50 Coma Complete unconsciousness
Depressed or abolished reflexes
Subnormal body temperature
Incontinence
Impairment of circulation and respiration
Possible death
Over .45 Death Death from respiratory arrest

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