EtOH Abuse: Understanding Ethanol Alcohol

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Clinically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated:


Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

EtOH is a common abbreviation for ethyl alcohol. Also known as ethanol, EtOH is a scientific descriptor for drinking alcohol.

Other terms used for EtOH include:

  • Alcohol
  • Grain alcohol
  • Ethyl alcohol

Alcohol may be legal and socially acceptable when consumed in moderation, but it is also the most abused of all addictive substances in the U.S.  Luckily addiction treatment is available.

EtOH is a depressant of the CNS (central nervous system) that can trigger sleepiness, sickness, disorientation, and confusion in the event of EtOH abuse or in episodes of binge drinking. If EtOH overdose (alcohol poisoning) occurs, this can be life-threatening.

EtOH abuse is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the United States, so what is ethanol alcohol exactly?

What is ETOH?

The EtOH meaning comes from the abbreviated chemical term for ethyl alcohol. Ethyl alcohol is the colorless substance present in alcohol beverages like wine, beer, or distilled spirits.

If the term is used in a clinical, academic, or research setting, the abbreviation EtOH is often used for expediency.

Ethyl alcohol is mainly found as the intoxicating ingredient in alcoholic drinks.

There are many other names for ethanol, including:

  • Alcohol
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Grain alcohol
  • Ethyl alcohol

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Types of Ethanol Alcohol

Among the many types of alcohol intended for human consumption, the most popular are as follows:

  • Wine
  • Malt liquor
  • Beer
  • Distilled spirits
  • Grain alcohol

These types of EtOH vary in potency. Beer is typically the weakest alcoholic beverage, with distilled spirits and grain alcohol the strongest.

What is considered EtOH abuse, then?

What is ETOH Abuse?

Alcohol abuse, also known as EtOH abuse can involve:

  • Heavy drinking: If a man consumes more than 14 standard drinks weekly or a woman consumes more than eight standard drinks weekly, this is classified as heavy drinking by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • Binge drinking: When a man drinks more than five alcoholic beverages in two hours or a woman drinks more than four drinks in the same period, this is known as binge drinking.
  • Alcohol use disorder: When addiction to alcohol develops, this is a chronic and relapsing condition clinically termed AUD (alcohol use disorder).

Any abuse of EtOH can provoke a variety of adverse health outcomes. These issues can be short-term and long-term, affecting your physical and mental health. In the worst scenario, unchecked EtOH abuse can be life-threatening.

Among the more severe effects of EtOH abuse are the following negative health outcomes:

  • Increased risk of some cancers (breast, liver, colon, esophagus).
  • Pancreatitis.
  • Liver damage.
  • Bleeding from the esophagus.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Cardiovascular issues.

In addition to these long-term health risks, the abuse of EtOH can increase your risk of:

  • Slips and falls.
  • Motor vehicle collisions.
  • Assaults.
  • Accidents when operating heavy machinery.
  • Violent or aggressive outbursts.
  • EtOH overdose (alcohol poisoning).

In the most acutely damaging scenario, EtOH abuse triggers the development of alcoholism (the informal term for alcohol use disorder).

Alcohol use disorder is diagnosed based on the number of criteria present in DSM-5-TR (the fifth and most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

These criteria are:

  1. Frequently drinking more alcohol than intended or drinking for longer than planned.
  2. Inability to control or discontinue use.
  3. Spending less time on previously favored activities.
  4. Experiencing problems at home, work, and school due to EtOH abuse.
  5. Devoting lots of time to drinking and recovering from the effects of EtOH abuse.
  6. Cravings for alcohol manifesting.
  7. Tolerance to alcohol building so that more is required to achieve the same effects.
  8. Engaging in risky behaviors and drinking in potentially dangerous situations.
  9. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the effects of alcohol wear off.
  10. Continuing to drink alcohol even though EtOH abuse is causing or inflaming a health condition, either physical or mental.
  11. Neglecting your personal and professional commitments due to EtOH abuse.

AUD is diagnosed according to the number of criteria present in a 12-month period:

  • Mild alcohol use disorder: 2 to 3 criteria
  • Moderate alcohol use disorder: 4 to 5 criteria
  • Severe alcohol use disorder: 6 criteria or more

An image of a woman wondering about Etoh abuse

ETOH Effects on the Body

Consuming any amount of EtOH triggers many immediate short-term effects. The presentation and intensity of the effects will differ according to the extent of intoxication.

The effects prompted by small quantities of EtOH are seldom dangerous, but the more alcohol you consume, the higher your risk of experiencing severe and adverse side effects, both short and long-term.

Consuming small quantities of EtOH can trigger these immediate physical effects:

  • Dulled reflexes
  • Impaired coordination
  • Slower reaction times

Consuming moderate quantities of EtOH normally intensifies those physical effects, leading to:

  • Slurred speech
  • Sleepiness
  • Vision problems
  • Flushed skin
  • Increased urination

Consuming large quantities of EtOH brings about the most severe and potentially damaging side effects, such as:

  • Irregular breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Unconsciousness
  • EtOH overdose (alcohol poisoning)
  • Coma
  • Seizure
  • Death

Research indicates that alcohol use disorder is associated with these mental health disorders:

  • GAD (generalized anxiety disorder)
  • Depression (major depressive disorder)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Schizophrenia

These mental health conditions may present separately from alcohol use disorder, or the conditions may co-occur. Dual diagnosis is most effectively treated with coordinated interventions targeting both conditions simultaneously.

EtOH abuse can contribute to hundreds of health conditions and diseases. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), over 52,000 people in the U.S. died of alcohol-related causes in 2021.

Among the most serious physical outcomes of this type of substance abuse is liver disease.

The long-term abuse of EtOH can cause:

  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fatty liver
  • Cirrhosis
  • Fibrosis
  • Liver cancer
  • Pancreatitis

Long-term EtOH abuse will also increase your risk profile for developing GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Over time, abusing EtOH can also trigger issues with the regulation of blood sugar in the body, according to reports from NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).


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Alcohol Rehab Options

If you are ready to engage in alcohol rehab to learn how to quit drinking and fight back against EtOH abuse, you have the following options at Renaissance Recovery in Huntington Beach:

  • Inpatient alcohol rehab: Also known as residential rehab, inpatient treatment is typically recommended for severe alcohol use disorders, co-occurring disorders (dual diagnosis of alcohol use disorder and mental health disorder), and for those with volatile home environments. Inpatient alcohol rehab involves a residential stay of between 30 and 90 days or more.
  • Outpatient alcohol rehab: Some mild addictions to EtOH may respond favorably to traditional outpatient treatment. Most people grappling with alcoholism will find this form of treatment offers too little support and structure, though.
  • Intensive outpatient alcohol rehab: Bridging the gap between inpatient and outpatient alcohol rehab, most treatment centers will offer more intensive forms of outpatient programming for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. The most popular programs are IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • Virtual alcohol rehab: For those unable or unwilling to engage in treatment at an alcohol rehab, virtual treatment provides remote therapy sessions via video conferencing software like Skype.

Regardless of the delivery method that best suits your circumstances, you can access the same services and interventions.

Before you begin a treatment program for EtOH abuse and addiction, you must first detox. A supervised medical detox will minimize complications. The treatment team can also administer medications to reduce the intensity of alcohol cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

After a week or so, you will be ready to proceed with a personalized treatment program drawing from these evidence-based interventions:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment): MAT can be effective during detox and throughout ongoing treatment for alcohol use disorder.
  • Psychotherapy: Talk therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) are proven effective for treating alcohol use disorder. CBT can be delivered in isolation or in combination with MAT.
  • Counseling: Both individual and group counseling delivers unique benefits for those in recovery from alcohol use disorder.
  • Family therapy: The consequences of EtOH addiction ripple out beyond the person abusing alcohol. Most of the best alcohol rehabs provide structured family therapy to help you start repairing relationships damaged by abuse.
  • Holistic therapies: To supplement the above EBTs (evidence-based treatments), alcohol rehabs may also offer access to a variety of holistic treatments like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga.

If you or a loved one are struggling with EtOH abuse, give us a call today at 866.330.9449 to get started on your recovery journey. 

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.