The term alcohol actually refers to a group of chemicals which all contain a hydroxyl group. Depending on the number of carbon atoms it includes methanol, ethanol, propanolol, et cetera. However, in general the term alcohol refers to ethanol.
Ethanol (C2H5OH) is a colourless, odourless and volatile substance without any taste. It is completely water soluble and burns easily. Ethanol itself does not have a specific odour. The ``smell'' of alcohol is not due to the ethanol, but rather to the additives which give each drink its characteristic taste and odour. Ethanol is the most potent psycho-active anaesthetic drug that is legally available without prescription. It is often abused, resulting in acute intoxication or chronic alcoholism. In this study unit we discuss mainly acute intoxication, although chronic alcoholism with its adverse effects on health and society is equally important.
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