Chemistry

Investigating the Science of Alcohol



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Alcohol is defined as any organic compound in which a hydroxyl group is bound to a carbon atom of an alkyl or substituted alkyl group. If you ever go to a party and experience alcohol first hand it is obvious to feel the effects. Even experience alcohol at home, or even anywhere will produce the effects that you will notice and American society has come to know. The simplest and most commonly used alcohols are methane and ethanol. Ethanol was formerly created by the distillation of wood and called "wood alcohol." It is now a cheap product, the chemical product of carbon monoxide reacting with hydrogen under high pressure. Two other alcohols whose uses are relatively widespread (though not so much as those of methanol and ethanol) are propanol and butanol. Like ethanol, they can be produced by fermentation processes.

Alcohols are generally polar due to the hydroxyl group. With this group hydrogen bonds can be formed to connect it to other compounds. Alcohols can also undergo oxidation to give aldehydes, ketones or carboxylic acids, or they can be dehydrated to alkenes. They can react to form ester compounds, and they can (if activated first) undergo nucleophilic substitution reactions. The lone pairs of electrons on the oxygen of the hydroxyl group also makes alcohols nucleophiles.

Today alcohols are mainly used in beverages, however they can be used in many other applications, such as fuel. Ethanol in the form of alcoholic beverages has been consumed by humans since pre-historic times. This is the form of alcohol that you would encounter at your local liquor store. This is the type of alcohol that many people strive to get their hands on for intoxications.

Alcohol has many effects on the human body. Alcohol can lead to the slowing of the livers work in the body's system. Some people's DNA code calls for a different acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, resulting in a more potent alcohol dehydrogenase. This leads to a buildup of acetaldehyde after alcohol consumption, causing the alcohol flush reaction with hangover-like symptoms such as flushing, nausea, and dizziness. These people are unable to drink much alcohol before feeling sick, and are therefore less susceptible to alcoholism.

The short term effects of alcohol includes euphoria, but it is a depressant so eventually is will bring down people who use it. It usually leads to confusion and it can be lethal in some dosages. Alcohol produces dehydration also. If someone is drinking an alcoholic beverage, it is important that they remember to drink a lot of water. Another effect of alcohol is blurred vision. Generally alcohol intoxication will lead to a hang over the next morning. This hangover will produce a headache and sensitivity to sound.

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