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Alcohol is a depressant drug that reduces the body reactions and the working of the brain. The word ?lcohol’ is sometimes mistakenly refers to drinks, such as beers, wine and spirits etc. But there many types of alcohol compounds, and each has different type of uses. Alcohol belongs to a class of organic compounds, all which consist of chemically bonded atoms of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen. All alcohol molecules contain at least one Hydroxyl group. This is when OH is attached to a carbon atom or the compound. Alcohol that has 1, 2 or 3 hydroxyl group attached to their molecule is classified as Monohydric, Dihydric or Trihydric respectively. They are then further classified as  primary, secondary or tertiary. (More complicated)

Short chained compounds of alcohol can mix with water (soluble), long chains can not. The more CH2 in its compounds, the less polar. Alcohol do not ionise (gain or lose electrons) in water and they are as acidic as water. When they burn or react, they give off Carbon Dioxide and water.

Some Properties Of Alcohol
Name Of Compound
Structural Formula
State At 25?C
Boiling Point
As molecules increase in size, their physical properties change. The next member going down is always a CH2 group longer than the last. As the compounds increase in length, it gradually changes to a solid, thus boiling point is increased.
Wood Alcohol
Methanol, Methyl alcohol or Wood alcohol is the simplest of  all the alcohols. It has 1 hydroxyl group with the formula CH3OH. Methanol is a highly toxic, colourless liquid. It is extremely poisonous when taken internally by drinking it or inhaling the vapour. Methanol has a melting point of -98?C and a boiling point of 65?C. At 20?C it has a specific gravity of 0.79.

Methanol was originally made from distillation of wood. But today, almost all of the methanol is produced synthetically, from hydrogen and Carbon Monoxide under high pressure and also Methane (natural gas). The synthetic methanol is then converted into Formaldehyde, which is a chemical used in making plastics. And because methanol is a solvent (something that dissolves other substances), it is important in the manufacture of gums, lacquers, paints, varnishes and many organic compounds. Methanol is also used as antifreeze solutions in motor vehicles and special motor fuels, but this is more expensive than other fuels.

          l                          Methanol / Methyl Alcohol / Wood Alcohol
   H - C - O - H
          l                          CH3OH

Grain Alcohol
Ethanol, Ethyl Alcohol or Grain alcohol, has the chemical formula of CH3CH2OH or C2H5OH. It is a clear, colourless liquid that has sweet smelling odour, taste and characteristics. Therefore, ethanol is the substance which produces beverages, such as beer, wine and brandy. Ethanol is soluble in water and burns with a colourless flame. It can be produced by reacting Ethene with steam or by Fermentation.

Fermentation is a process used to produce ethanol from raw materials, such as starch from potatoes, corn, cereal, fruits or grain. Glucose and sugars from these raw materials are converted into ethanol by enzymes (catalysts). Yeast is used in this process, because they contain enzymes called Zymase to change glucose into ethanol and carbon dioxide.

This reaction, is represented by the equation…


C6H12O6                >>>                 2C2H5OH     +       2CO2
          Glucose               Enzyme                 Ethanol           Carbon Dioxide

In fact, this reaction is very complex, because the impure yeast will also produce other substances during the reaction, such as fusel oil, Glycerin and other organic acids. The fermented liquid is about 7 - 12 % ethanol, but can be further concentrated to 95% by distillation. Distillation will remove the water and other impurities by heating it under pressure.

Ethanol has a boiling point of 78?C and a melting point of -114?C. Because of it? withstand over low temperatures, it can be used in thermometers  for temperatures below -40?C, the freezing point of Mercury.

Not only for drinking, but ethanol can also be useful as solvents in chemical reactions, lacquers, varnishes, detergents, toiletries, perfume and explosives. They can also make synthetic rubber and a special motor fuel called Gasohol. (10% ethanol, 90% petrol)

         H    H
          l      l                         Ethanol  / Ethanol Alcohol / Grain Alcohol
   H - C - C - O - H
          l      l                         CH3CH2OH
         H     H

Other Alcohols
 The higher alcohols that have a greater weight than ethanol, also have many specific and general uses. Plasticiser alcohol is used in the manufacture of plastics, which give them more flexibility. Detergent alcohol is used to make detergents, soaps and shampoos, and when they are combined with other chemicals, it has the ability to dissolve dirt and grease in water (Emulsification). Other types of alcohol include Propanol, Butanol, Isopropanol, Ethanediol and many more.
CH3CH2CH2OH         Isopropanol / Propanol


Alcoholism is a chronic or a long term illness which a person is taking excessive amounts of alcohol or alcoholic beverages in their body. This person is known as an alcoholic. An alcoholic is someone who feels that they are forced to drink. A person may get drunk occasionally, but that does not make them an alcoholic. Alcoholism is in fact the 3rd major health hazard! Many people drink because they want to escape from anxiety, frustration and tension. They are also due to physiological, psychological, social and genetic factors. Alcoholics can sometimes lead to brain damage and death, and many more effects.

Alcohol is a drug that slows and controls the reactions of the brain. It is absorbed very quickly into the blood stream from the stomach in a short time of 5 -10 minutes. The effects can last for a couple of hours depending on the amount and how quick it was consumed, how much food in the stomach, body weight and their behaviour. As a result of drinking, these people will lose their self control and behave very differently. They may also experience mental confusion, poor co-ordination, unable to walk steadily, talk clearly and large amounts can result in vomiting, short time amnesia, double vision and loss of consciousness.

Long term drinking is even more serious. Sustained drinking can increase the chance of damaging their health. This will lead to liver disease (Cirrhosis), ulcers, extreme tremors, heart and digestive system disorders and permanent brain damage of the central nervous system. Recent evidence shown that moderate drinking during pregnancy can cause serious damage to the unborn child, such as physical and mental retardation and malformed organs. (the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome)

The probable most reliable treatment for alcoholics is caring for their emotional and physical needs. When they begin to stop drinking, they go through a condition called the withdrawal. At this point they may suffer from convulsions and hallucinations. Withdrawal symptoms may last for several days. Future treatments may include the use of chemicals to decrease the need of alcohol. Prevention of alcoholism in children is possible through the use of psychological testing and examination of the body fluid chemistry and brain wave patterns.

Alcoholism Facts
1 measure of spirit       Glass of wine       Regular beer       Strong lager
1 unit                                 1 unit                       1 unit                         1 unit