Ethanol /ˈɛθənɒl/, also commonly called ethyl alcohol, drinking alcohol, or simply alcohol is the principal type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, produced by the fermentation of sugars by yeasts. It is a neurotoxic psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs used by humans. It can cause alcohol intoxication when consumed in sufficient quantity.

Ethanol is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid with a slight chemical odor. It is used as an antiseptic, a solvent, a fuel, and, due to its low freezing point, the active fluid in post-mercury thermometers.

The acute and chronic effects of ethyl alcohol (ethanol, EtOH) abuse on the nervous system (not to mention the effects of EtOH on other organ systems)

Neuromuscular effects include:

1. acute intoxication

2. effects of chronic alcohol abuse

a) Wernicke’s encephalopathy

b) cerebellar degeneration:due to degeneration of Purkinje cells in the cerebellar cortex, predominantly in the anterior superior vermis

c) central pontine myelinolysis

d) stroke:increased risk of

intracerebral hemorrhage

● ischemic stroke

● possibly aneurysmal SAH

e) peripheral neuropathy

f) skeletal myopathy

3. effects of alcohol withdrawal: usually seen in habituated drinkers with cessation or reduction of ethanol intake

a) alcohol withdrawal syndromes

b) seizures: up to 33% of patients have generalized tonic-clonic seizure 7–30 hrs after cessation of drinking— see Alcohol withdrawal seizures

c) delirium tremens (DTs):

Increasing blood ethanol concentration (BEC) was associated with increasing odds of being in a more severe GCS group. However, because the modelled probability of significant brain injury was high in patients with high levels of BEC, a reduced level of consciousness in intoxicated patients mandates further radiological investigations 1).

Alcohol and head injury

There are only two effective methods of treatment. Injection of alcohol into the involved division of the nerve gives relief for a period that averages from twelve to eighteen months. The affected area increases with succeeding attacks, the attacks last longer and the free intervals get shorter, it becomes increasingly diflicult to inject the nerves because of formation of scar tissue, and eventually all patients come to operation.

Division of the sensory root proximal to the Gasserian ganglion gives permanent relief from the pain. The dangers of this procedure are frequently put to the incapacitated suflerer on the basis of the high mortality of the early days of the operation. Many surgeons now have large series of cases with a mortality of less than 5 percent. Considering the advanced age of most of these patients, such a mortality is low for an operation which assures freedom from unbearable pain 2).

Rønning P, Gunstad PO, Skaga NO, Langmoen IA, Stavem K, Helseth E. The impact of blood ethanol concentration on the classification of head injury severity in traumatic brain injury. Brain Inj. 2015 Oct 19:1-6. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 26480239.
Towne EB. Neurosurgery: Tic Douloureux. Cal West Med. 1927 Dec;27(6):814. PubMed PMID: 18740563; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1655710.
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