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.