Ethyl alcohol Ethanol

The services rendered by intoxicating substances in the struggle for happiness and in warding off misery rank so highly as a benefit that both individuals and races have given them an established position within their libido-economy. It is not merely the immediate gain in pleasure which one owes to them, but also a measure of that independence of the outer world which is so sorely craved ... We are aware that it is just this property which constitutes the danger and injuriousness of intoxicating substances.. ,22

Alcohol is chiefly important in medicine because of the consequences of its misuse/abuse. Alcohol misuse is a social problem with pharmacological aspects, which latter are discussed here. The history of alcohol is part of the history of civilisation 'ever since Noah made his epoch-making discovery'.23


Absorption of alcohol taken orally is rapid, for it is highly lipid-soluble and diffusible from the stomach and the small intestine. Solutions above 20% are absorbed more slowly because high concentrations of alcohol inhibit gastric peristalsis, thus delaying the arrival of the alcohol in the small intestine which is the major site of absorption.

Absorption is delayed by food, especially milk, the effect of which is probably due to the fat it contains. Carbohydrate also delays absorption of alcohol.

Distribution of alcohol is rapid and throughout the body water (dist. vol. 0.7 1/kg men: 0.6 1/kg women); it is not selectively stored in any tissue.

22 Freud S 1939 Civilisation, war and death, Psycho-analytic epitomes, No. 4. Hogarth Press, London.

23 Genesis; 9: 21; Huxley A1957 Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 67: 675.

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