Ethanol, the infamous molecule of booze

Still Life: A Kindle, crisps and a glass of Pimm’s

I may be a serious scholar, an insufferable nerd and a dodgy Russian, but even I find time to be young and cheeky. I’m writing this on the Sunday afternoon (having scraped myself finally off the cozy bed) while enjoying the rainy weather in the warm refuge of my monastic cell. The night before I went out for several drinks, which culminated with me showing some groovy moves at the disco that would make any contortionist proud (subject to exaggeration).

Having burned a couple of thousand calories, I decided it was the right moment to embrace my pillow. Of greatest convenience was a night bus, which promptly delivered me from the buzzing Piccadilly Circus right to my quiet place in Earls Court. Before falling into the realm of Tel-aran-Rhiod I’ve made a mental note for the morning – to resurrect my neuro-pharmacology, which I’ve studied at the kindergarten in the intervals between snowball fights and stealing gunpowder from the local military base.

But I digress. I’ve had five cups of tea and watched the X Factor (what? Don’t I have a right?), so it’d be inexcusable to continue writing this longest preamble ever.

What is booze? Why do we get intoxicated?

Being an observing type I scrutinized (sic!) the human specimens around me at the disco while sustaining my dancing routine. Some of the chaps and gals clearly couldn’t work out when enough was enough. Could one enjoy booze without regretting it?

And then I thought that my own expertise at maintaining the right dosage of alcohol comes from the knowledge of its biological effects.

Perhaps, knowing it inside out makes you more considerate.

I mean imagine a conversation

“Mate, no more tequila for you, it looks like your dinner is working on its way up …”

transforming into:

“Mate, I’ve just stabbed your with a needle to run a quick blood test for you, which explains the stinging sensation in your vein, and it turns out that the ethanol levels in your blood just exceeded 300 milligram per decilitre.”

“I don’t care.”

“But at this concentration ethanol can strike you with ataxia and general stupor, because it’s busting your neurotransmitter system.”

“Sod off, you stupor not me! My liver can cope with all that.”

“I doubt it because the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme, which breaks down ethanol mostly in your stomach and liver, can process booze only up to a certain speed, and as a consequence, the booze is now stocking up in your blood. If it reaches the level of 0.5 gram per decilitre of blood, you’re dead, buddy.”

“We’ll see about it.”

“I forgot to mention that already at low doses ethanol impairs fair judgement and other cognitive processes. I’ll have to render your unconscious with a distal part of my upper limb if you persist ignoring my advice.”

That’s the culprit – An ethanol molecule – C2H5OH. The color-coded atoms: carbon – grey, oxygen – red, hydrogen – white (via Wikimedia commons)

 

Okay humor aside, if you are a dangerous intellectual keen on grasping biological effects of ethanol in further detail, go read this thorough academic review, which is free to download.

In vino veritas (the truth is in the booze) – the ancient Latin people used to say, mind you, they meant that one loses inhibitions and relaxes when drunk. Yet being a powerful mind-boggling substance, ethanol at high doses is a poison. So enjoy it responsibly, and if you still decide to get wasted, there are indeed such stubborn cases in existence to my knowledge, then have someone reliable close-by who would look after you.

Having a difficult relationship with alcohol? Share your profound knowledge on it with others, – this is such an incredibly captivating topic to discuss, don’t you think?

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  • Ashen

    My profound knowledge, necessitated from liking my treat of two glasses of red after dinner, is to trick my mind by doubling the amount with beetroot juice. Looks like wine, and is cheaper too, and tastes delicious. So here goes, one glass of red wine, one glass of beetroot juice, second glass of wine, followed by a second glass of beetroot juice.

    • GrigoryRyzhakov

      great idea, Ashen. Do you buy beetroot juice in the supermarket or make t yourself? Is it safe to mix it with wine (I mean not everything mixes well he he)? I’ve never tried :)

      • Ashen

        I suppose you could mix it, though I don’t.Like good wine too much :) Explained that wrong. Alternate was the word that escaped my sleepy brain last night. So after a glass of wine, I drink a glass of beet.. I used to make my own juices, but nowadays I buy beet at Waitrose.