How do I separate ethanol from beer

Structural formula
Surname Ethanol
other names
  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Ethanol
  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Alcohol
  • spirit
  • alcohol (colloquial)
Molecular formula C.2H5OH or C2H6O
CAS number 64-17-5
Brief description colorless liquid with a characteristic odor
Molar mass 46.07 g mol−1
Physical state liquid
density about 0.7894 g cm−3 (with anhydrous ethanol)
Melting point −114.4 ° C
boiling point 78.37 ° C
Vapor pressure

58.7 hPa (20 ° C)


Can be mixed with water as required

conductivity does not conduct electricity
safety instructions

500 ml m−3 and 960 mg · m, respectively−3[1]

WGK 1 (slightly hazardous to water) [1]
As far as possible and customary, SI units are used. Unless otherwise noted, the data given apply to standard conditions.

  Ethanol is a colorless, highly flammable, pungent smelling liquid, which is colloquially known as alcohol referred to as. The names are based on older nomenclatures Ethanol, Ethyl alcohol or Ethyl alcohol back. The even older names also become colloquial Alcohol and spirit used. In the natural sciences, ethanol is often used EtOH abbreviated.

Alcohol is an intoxicant. Consumption is allowed in most countries in the world. Driving bicycles, motor vehicles, ships and airplanes under the influence of alcohol is usually a criminal offense.


Ethanol with the formula C2H5OH belongs to the n-alkanols. It is derived from the alkane (saturated hydrocarbon) Ethane (C.2H6), in which a hydrogen atom is formally replaced by the functional hydroxyl group (OH). That is why the suffix is ​​added to the name Ethan -oil attached.

The name ethanol has only been valid since this systematization of the names of chemical compounds, while the term Alcohols In technical terms, a whole chemical class of substances is now referred to.

The structural formula can, if you read it backwards, with the saying "Herr Oabout, 5Helle, 2C.orn “is very easy to remember.

Word origin alcohol

In Arabic it was الكحل al-kuhl originally for eye make-up and antimony powder. Alcohol was the "spiritual essence" that served as a solvent for the "earthen essence" and therefore took over the name (in modern Arabic means الكحول al-kuhul but alcohol). This term came to Europe during the long Arab rule in Spain. In the Spanish language meant alcohol originally fine, dry powderwhich found its way into the language of alchemists.

Cultural history of alcohol

Ethanol is produced naturally during the fermentation of sugary fruits. In this way, people became aware of this substance independently of one another at an early stage in history.[2] So found in Egyptian scrolls of the III. dynasty[3] as well as on ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets[4] Notes on the production of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is also mentioned in the Bible, see for example Genesis 9: 18-29.

Beers, and later also wines, were produced with the help of wild yeast. Usually such everyday beverages had a significantly lower alcohol content than today, as the wild yeasts stop converting sugar into alcohol above a certain alcohol concentration, because otherwise they would poison themselves. Through centuries of breeding, today's yeast strains tolerate higher alcohol levels.

Even in these ancient times, alcohol was already drunk because of its intoxicating effects. An Egyptian text about the behavior of young men says:

You leave the books and go from tavern to tavern; the enjoyment of beer every evening, the smell of beer drives people away from you.[3]

In ancient times, wine eventually became an integral part of Roman and Greek culture. Both cultures gave him his own deity: Bacchus and Dionysus.

Presumably in the area of ​​what is now Turkey around 1000 AD, the distillation of wine for the production of high-proof spirits was developed[2]. So it was possible to Spiritus vini (Spirit of Wine) to make from wine. In East Asia, wines were made from lychee and plums as well as sake, a warm rice wine (but actually sake is a beer-like drink).

In the middle of the 18th century, the New World increased the arable area of ​​the Kingdom of England many times over. As a result, this led to falling grain prices and the associated impoverishment of the lower class. The overproduction of grain was partly used for the production of gin, which found grateful buyers in the poor quarters of the motherland. At times, a calorie of gin cost less than a calorie of bread[5]. As a result, the Gin crisiswhich the government at the time was only able to end through a series of laws (high taxes on gin, hindering trade, issuing licenses for traders, etc.). It was only from this time that the first publications dealing with alcohol addiction and its secondary diseases can be found. Against this background, alcohol was also understood for the first time as a cause of social problems and undesirable developments[5].

While alcohol consumption decreased again in the middle of the 19th century, industrialization began again in a time in which very cheap alcohol was used by large impoverished sections of the population. Industrial production and the massive marketing of alcoholic beverages, which began especially after the Second World War, led to a large oversupply in the 1st and 2nd world. In this way, women and, more recently, young people have become target groups for promoting demand and sales. In the meantime, alcohol-related damage is one of the diseases of civilization.

Occurrence in food and beverages

Alcohol is a naturally occurring product of alcoholic fermentation in ripe fruits and juices. Because of its intoxicating effect, alcoholic beverages are produced industrially. Alcohol is the most common drug in the world. Regular consumption of alcohol can lead to alcoholism.

Volume fractions

Alcohol content (with indication of the alcohol content in percent by volume):

  • Bread: up to 0.3%
  • Apple juice: up to 0.4%
  • non-alcoholic beer: up to 0.5%
  • Sauerkraut: 0.5%
  • Grape juice: up to 0.6%
  • ripe banana: up to 1% (average 3 ml)
  • ripe kefir: up to approx. 1%
  • beer
    • Light beers: 1–2.5%
    • Whole beers: approx. 3–5%, mostly around 5%
    • Strong beers: 6–12%
  • Wines: 7–14%, mostly around 12% and more for red wines
    • Mead: approx. 5–15%
    • Apple cider: approx. 5.5–7%
  • Liqueurs: approx. 15-75%, mostly below 30%
  • Spirits: approx. 30–80%, mostly approx. 40%


There is insufficient evidence (literature, websites, etc.) in this article or section. The information in question may therefore be deleted soon. Help Wikipedia by researching the information and adding good evidence. Finally, please remove this warning mark.

In Germany in 2003, on average, every person (aged 15 and over) consumed the following amounts of alcoholic beverages:

  • 117.5 liters of beer
  • 19.8 liters of wine
  • 3.8 liters of sparkling wine
  • 5.9 liters of spirits

These amounts correspond to a total of around 10.2 liters of pure ethanol per person per year.


For the first time, the Persian doctor, scientist, philosopher and writer Abu Bakr Mohammad Ibn Zakariya al-Razi succeeded in obtaining pure alcohol by distilling it from wine. see also alcoholic fermentation

Production by fermentation

Alcohol is produced, among other things, during the fermentation of sugary or starchy materials by yeast or bacteria. Therefore, this process is carried out in a controlled manner with a number of foods, resulting in wine (made from grapes) or beer (made from malt and hops), for example. The alcohol content can be increased by distillation and almost pure alcohol (azeotrope) can be obtained. Such drinks are called spirits (e.g. whiskey, cognac, schnapps, vodka or rum). Liqueurs are spirits to which sugar and flavorings are added after distillation. However, brandy may only be produced privately to a limited extent (max. 0.5 l mash), unless the brandy is customs cleared.

Ethanol is now mainly obtained from biomass by fermentation, but it can also be produced by purely chemical synthesis from water and ethene with the addition of sulfuric acid as a catalyst, which is how it was produced from petroleum for a long time in the 20th century. Ethanol obtained through fermentation is also known as in the context of alternative fuels Agrarian or Bioethanol.

Production quantities

The following quantities of alcoholic beverages were produced in Germany in 2006:

Alcoholic beverage Million liters
spirits 49
vodka 44
Fruit brandy 16
Bitter, herbal liqueurs 89
Other liquors 67
grain 61
sparkling wine 220
beer 10000

Around 330 million hectoliters (33 billion liters) of ethanol are produced worldwide, of which around 13% comes from European countries with 42 million hectoliters. The largest European producers are Russia and France. Germany produces almost 4 million hl annually in equal parts as beverage alcohol and as alcohol for chemical-technical purposes, which corresponds to a self-consumption coverage of around 62%. In addition to the production of neutral alcohol for beverages, food and technical purposes, around 65% of the total is attributable to the production of fuel ethanol. In the USA, the construction of new production facilities for ethanol z. Z. especially forced. In August 2005, President Bush signed a new law ("Energy Policy Act" (EPACT)) aimed at promoting the expansion of renewable liquid energy sources. There are currently 97 production plants for ethanol in operation; these produce 19 billion liters of ethanol per year. Another 42 plants are under construction and many existing plants are being expanded. The investments are expected to deliver an additional 11.5 billion liters of ethanol. [3] Around 21 billion liters of ethanol are currently produced in Brazil. In 2010 the production volume is expected to be around 30 billion liters.


Ethanol is soluble in water in any proportion. In chemical synthesis, however, the presence of moisture can have serious disadvantages. On an industrial scale, pure ethanol is therefore produced by azeotropic rectification. The plant mainly consists of two rectification columns. The normal rectification of the ethanol / water mixture takes place in the main separation column up to the vicinity of the azeotropic point. The bottom product is water.

The auxiliary cyclohexane is added to the top product (95.6% ethanol and 4.4% water). This three-substance mixture reaches the auxiliary separation column. There it is separated into the pure alcohol obtained in the sump and into a cyclohexane / water mixture as the top product. Cyclohexane and water are immiscible in the liquid state and separate after condensation in a separator (decanter). The auxiliary cyclohexane is added back to the inflowing azeotropic ethanol / water mixture at the inlet of the auxiliary separating column. It runs in a circuit in the upper area of ​​the auxiliary material separation column and is therefore also referred to as the "head running auxiliary material".

At temperatures around −20 ° C (freezer), ethanol (96%) hardly evaporates and shows rather viscous properties. At −70 ° C (due to dry ice) it becomes even more viscous (Cooling oil).


Most of the ethanol produced is consumed in the form of alcoholic beverages for pleasure purposes. It also serves as a solvent for both consumer products and others. in the household (perfume, deodorant), as well as for medical applications (medicines, disinfectants) as well as in industry itself also as a solvent and generally as a fuel.

Household and consumer products

Ethanol finds inter alia. as an excellent solvent everywhere in the household use, so as

  • Carrier for odorous substances (perfume, deodorant, fragrance spray)
  • Cleaning agents (glass, chrome, plastic, windscreen washer)
  • Antifreeze
  • Food additive (for example, ethanol is added (injected) to port wines to end the fermentation process at the desired time).
  • fuel

Ethanol is a very good solvent for resins. In the case of soiled textiles, the resin should first be roughly scraped off. Then place a cloth slightly dampened with water under the fabric, stretch the fabric taut and carefully dab the stain from the inside out with a cloth soaked in 90% ethanol. The resin should then be in the dampened cloth. Before treatment, however, it is strongly recommended to dab the substance to be cleaned in an inconspicuous place with the ethanol in order to ensure the color fastness.


  • The effectiveness as Disinfectants or antiseptic (e.g. for hand disinfection) depends on the concentration of the ethanol-water mixture. At around 70% alcohol, the bacterial shell is destroyed and the alcohol is deadly. All bacteria including the tubercle bacteria are killed within one minute by denaturing the bacterial cell wall (bactericidal). It is only effective against viruses, but not effective against bacterial endospores. The mixture should not be used on open wounds (Burn). Solutions with 80% alcohol have an even stronger effect, but are not used regularly due to the poor skin tolerance. Pure alcohol hardens the bacterial shell, the bacterium stays alive.[6] However, drinking ethanol or alcoholic beverages does not have an antiseptic effect. Alcoholic beverages with an ethanol content of less than 16% cannot keep themselves sterile, which is why they are not suitable for disinfection.
  • 95% ethanol can be used to obliterate “hot” thyroid nodules and other circumscribed tumors[7]
  • Many liquid medicines contain ethanol as a solvent because the active substances do not dissolve in water by themselves. Ethanol is therefore an important carrier substance in the manufacture of herbal medicines (phytomedicine).
  • Rubbing the skin with alcohol (e.g. rubbing alcohol) promotes blood circulation.
  • Another application is the use of ethanol to treat insect bites. An alcohol-soaked cloth is placed on the fresh stitch for some time. The pain relief occurs due to the cooling effect of the ethanol solution; the itching is suppressed. However, ethanol does not chemically change or inactivate toxins.
  • In the event of poisoning with methanol, ethanol is given intravenously as the first measure so that the liver or the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase postpones the conversion of the methanol into its toxic breakdown products. Ethanol binds about 25 times more strongly to alcohol dehydrogenase than methanol.[8]
  • In the case of severe alcohol addiction, alcohol predeliration with ethanol can be interrupted in order to be able to treat an acute second illness without the symptoms that otherwise occur. However, this involves serious risks.

Ethanol as a fuel for gasoline engines

Main articles: ethanol fuel and cellulosic ethanol

Ethanol is also added to conventional fuels. As Bioethanol it is called ethanol, which was produced exclusively from regenerative biomass. From a chemical point of view, there is no difference between bioethanol and other ethanol produced. The starch or cellulose contained in the biomass used as raw material is enzymatically broken down into glucose and this is then fermented with yeast to form ethanol.

In connection with the Kyoto Protocol, the production and use of biogenic fuels (i.e. fuels of biological or organic origin) and the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions per kilometer driven are often debated today. In 2004 bioethanol was priced at US $ 0.19 / l in Brazil, US $ 0.33 / l in the USA and $ 0.65 / l in Europe.

Other use of alcohol

  • Ethanol is an important solvent and intermediate in the chemical industry.
  • Ethanol was used by Wernher von Braun until the 1950s as a fuel for the rockets of the types A1, A2, A3, A4, A4b and A5, because on the one hand, in contrast to gasoline, the calorific value of ethanol slightly increases by diluting it with water for test purposes can be reduced to prevent explosions during engine test runs, and on the other hand it was easily obtained from agricultural products during the Second World War, in contrast to the scarce gasoline.

Taxation and Denaturation

In principle, ethanol is subject to the spirits tax in Germany. This is currently € 13.03 / liter of pure alcohol and is collected from the manufacturer by the customs authorities in Germany.

The use of ethanol is possible for technical purposes (printing, paint production, cleaning agent production, cosmetics and the like) and tax-free as denatured alcohol. In order to prevent this ethanol from being drunk as luxury goods or added to such without paying the tax, untaxed alcohol is denatured under customs supervision. Denaturation means that ethanol is mixed with other chemicals, such as B. MEK (methyl ethyl ketone = 2-butanone, with two other marking components prescribed by spirits tax law), petroleum ether, cyclohexane, diethyl phthalate (diethyl phthalate) or the like is added to make it unusable for human consumption.

The one in the form of Denatured alcohol as fuel The ethanol used, for example for rechauds and camping and expedition stoves, is mixed with the extremely bitter denatonium benzoate (1 gram / 100 liters) in addition to the MEK. The previously common use of pyridines as denaturing agents for denatured alcohol is still permitted under spirits tax law, but these have not been used by German manufacturers since around 1993 because of their health concerns.

It can also be observed that some alcohol bottlers add various foreign substances, regenerates, etc. to the ethanol, presumably for cost reasons. Bottlers who only use ethanol in their product will usually make this clear by marking “UN 1170” on the bottle.

Denaturants usually have boiling points similar to ethanol, making them difficult to remove by distillation. The denaturants diethyl phthalate (also used as a plasticizer) and MEK pose a problem when used as cleaning agents: paints and varnishes that are intrinsically resistant to ethanol can soften or be attacked.

Denatured alcohol is not to be confused with Dry alcohol, the tetramer (CH3CHO)4 of acetaldehyde CH3CHO is.

physical and chemical properties

Flash point 12 ° C
Ignition temperature 425 ° C (DIN 51794)
Explosion limits lower: 2.5 vol .-% / upper: 15 vol .-%
Speed ​​of sound 1180 m · s−1 (20 ° C)
Temp. Dependency: −3.6 m s−1° C−1
Energy density per kg 7.44 kWh kg−1 = 26.78 MJ kg−1
Energy density per liter 5.87 kWh l−1 = 21.14 MJ · l−1
dynamic viscosity 1,2 · 10−3 Pa · s (20 ° C)
kinematic viscosity 1,52 · 10−6 m2· S−1 (20 ° C)
Surface tension 0.02255 Nm−1 (20 ° C)
Refractive index 1,359
Biodegradability 94% (OECD 301 E)
UN number 1170
Hazard number 30 + 33

The outstanding feature of ethanol is its hydroxyl group. Since an oxygen atom attracts electrons more strongly than hydrogen and carbon, the result is an asymmetrical distribution of the electron density along this bond: a molecular dipole is formed. This gives ethanol its typical properties. On the one hand, the dipoles attract each other at the molecular level, so that a comparatively high boiling temperature of 78 ° C results (pp Ethane −88.6 ° C), on the other hand, ethanol can be mixed with liquids that have similar dipole properties (water, methanol, ...), one speaks of hydrophilicity. At the same time, the molecule has an organic residue that gives it limited miscibility with purely lipophilic substances. For this reason, ethanol is an important solvent in chemistry, so many plant extracts or other drugs are offered as an alcoholic solution.

Acid-base activity

The OH group of the ethanol is weakly acidic, i. i.e., it is to a small extent able to detect a proton (H.+) split off. In chemistry, the alcohol is converted quantitatively into its deprotonated form, the ethanolate ion (CH3CH2O). The reaction proceeds with evolution of hydrogen:

Ethanol and sodium react to form sodium ethoxide and hydrogen.

Nucleophilic substitution

In aprotic solvents, ethanol reacts with hydrogen halides via nucleophilic substitution to form ethyl halides:

Ethanol and hydrogen chloride react to form ethyl chloride and water.
Ethanol and hydrogen bromide react to form ethyl bromide and water.

Ethyl halides can also be formed more specifically by halogenating reagents such as thionyl chloride or phosphorus tribromide.


Acid-catalyzed, ethanol reacts with carboxylic acids to form ethyl esters:

Carboxylic acids react with ethanol to form ethyl esters and water.

Ethyl esters are used as additives for cosmetics, as well as smells and flavors.


Very strong acids such as sulfuric acid can catalyze dehydration of the ethanol. Either diethyl ether or ethene is formed:

Ethanol condenses to diethyl ether with elimination of water.
In an elimination reaction, ethanol splits off water with the formation of a double bond.

Which product is formed essentially depends on further reaction conditions, such as temperature or concentrations.


Ethanol is thermodynamically unstable and can therefore be oxidized via acetaldehyde to acetic acid even at room temperature in the presence of atmospheric oxygen. Such reactions are catalyzed by enzymes in biological systems, for example. In the laboratory, inorganic oxidizing agents such as chromic acid or potassium permanganate are used for the oxidation to acetic acid. The oxidation to acetaldehyde is achieved with pyridine chlorochromate.


The oxidation of the ethanol does not have to stop at the acetic acid level. Under suitable conditions, for example at high temperatures, ethanol burns with flame formation and complete oxidation with a calorific value of about 30 MJ / kg to carbon dioxide and water:


Admission and dismantling

Alcohol is absorbed throughout the digestive tract. This begins to a small extent in the oral mucosa. The alcohol absorbed there goes directly into the blood and is thus distributed over the entire body, including the brain. The alcohol absorbed in the intestine, on the other hand, first reaches the liver with the blood, where it is partially broken down. Alcohol intake is increased by factors that increase blood circulation, for example warmth (Irish coffee, grog), sugar (liqueur) and carbon dioxide (so-called carbonic acid in sparkling wine), while fat slows down absorption. However, this does not lead to a lower absorption of the alcohol overall, but only to a temporal extension.[9]

In the liver, the alcohol is converted into ethanal (acetaldehyde, H.3C-CHO) to be further oxidized to acetic acid by acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. Acetic acid is converted into CO via the citric acid cycle and the respiratory chain in all cells of the body while generating energy2 exhaled. The intermediate product ethanal is also responsible for the so-called hangover. The breakdown of ethanol is inhibited by sugar, so the hangover is particularly intense with sweet alcoholic drinks, especially liqueur, punch bowls and some types of sparkling wine.

The rate of degradation by alcohol dehydrogenase is constant within certain limits. It amounts to at least 1 g of alcohol per 10 kg of body weight and hour, whereby the breakdown times for men and women vary slightly. Experience has shown that a bottle of beer (½ l, 16 g alcohol) degrades in 1–2 hours. In men, there is a slightly increased activity of gastric alcohol dehydrogenase in the stomach, resulting in a slight acceleration in the breakdown of alcohol.

Alcohol is a toxin in the body that inhibits receptors in the brain, causing intoxication. Like other water-soluble poisons, alcohol is broken down in the liver, which can adjust its breakdown activity to a small extent with considerably increased, regular consumption. With higher alcohol concentrations or with chronic drinkers, the alcohol is also broken down via the microsomal ethanol oxidizing system (MEOS). In the microsomes of the liver cells, ethanol is oxidized to ethanal by cytochrome P450 while consuming oxygen. This effect paired with a desensitization of the vegetative nervous system leads to a higher alcohol resistance in "trained drinkers" and "mirror drinkers". This desensitization through habituation can go so far that drinkers with two or more alcohols show no behavioral problems.

Other alcohols from uncleanly distilled spirits, the so-called fusel oils, are also broken down by alcohol dehydrogenase or acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. This degradation thus competes with the degradation of the ethanol, which consequently is degraded more slowly. About five percent of the ethanol is released through urine, sweat and breath.

Ethanol and drinks containing ethanol must not be given to warm up after hypothermia, as it only forces the symptoms. The alleged keg of rum in the St. Bernard dogs as a ration for hypothermic people is therefore life-threatening from a medical point of view.

Blood and breath alcohol

An objective measure of the alcoholic influence is the alcohol concentration in the venous blood circulation and in the air we breathe, whereby only limited statements can be made about the physiological impairment, as these depend heavily on individual influences, in particular habituation to alcohol.

The level of the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or the breath alcohol concentration (AAC) is associated with a statistical probability with the risk of failure symptoms or accidents compared to the fasting state, which are the basis of the legal alcohol limits.

The blood alcohol concentration in men is calculated as follows (according to Watson):

BAK = 0.8 / [(2.447 - 0.09516 * age in years + 0.1074 * height in cm + 0.3362 * weight in kg)] * alcohol in g

The achievable BAC depends on the amount of water consumed, body mass and gender, but also on factors such as stature and age as well as the filling level of the stomach. The Widmark formula is used to calculate the (only theoretically) maximum achievable BAK. The unit of measurement is the mass ratio of milligrams of alcohol per gram of blood (mg / g), better known as the alcohol value.

The AAK comes about because the alcohol in the alveoli is transferred from the arterial bloodstream to the inhaled air, which releases alcohol when exhaling. The unit of measurement is the amount of alcohol in milligrams per liter of breath (mg / l). A direct conversion from AAK to BAK is not possible precisely because the ratio changes over time. For this reason, there are two separate limit values ​​in the Federal Republic of Germany, which are legally equated and are based on the mean distribution factor of 1: 2000. This means that 0.5 mg / g BAC corresponds to 0.25 mg / l AAC.

Immediate physiological effect

Depending on the situation, alcohol causes anesthesia, stimulation or even a change in mood.

It also leads to an expansion of the peripheral blood vessels in particular. This results in a feeling of warmth when consuming alcoholic beverages. The natural regulation of the heat balance is overridden at low temperatures. At the same time, alcohol has a numbing effect, so that ominous cold is no longer perceived. Therefore, frostbite or even death from cold can be the result of winter alcohol consumption.

The combination of alcohol with medication and other drugs is also problematic. There are many interactions here that can lead to premature and more intensive impairment than with pure alcohol consumption. The cytochrome P450 2E1 formed during the breakdown of alcohol can impair the effectiveness of drugs through their breakdown.


Ethanol is toxic to humans. Excessive consumption (over about 1 per thousand alcohol concentration in the blood) leads to typical symptoms of intoxication such as dizziness, nausea, disorientation, talkativeness and increased aggressiveness. The lethal dose (LD) is around 3.0 to 4.0 per thousand. The highest value measured so far in a patient who survived is 6.12 per mille.[10] The LD50 for the rat is 7060 mg / kg for oral administration.[11]

Regular use can lead to addiction (alcoholism). All cells in the body are damaged in the process. In particular, the nervous system and liver suffer. The vitamin B1 metabolism is damaged by prolonged consumption of alcohol; this damage can trigger polyneuritis. Epilepsy, psychosis, social isolation and premature death can result. Damage to the central nervous system in delirium tremens is also known. This nerve phenomenon occurs when the body is withdrawn from alcohol. In Germany, over 73,000 people die prematurely every year due to their alcohol abuse (source: Deutsche Hauptstelle für Suchtfragen (DHS), annual report 2004).

In acute ethanol poisoning, it helps to induce vomiting. This can also be done by pumping out the contents of the stomach. Afterwards, a lot of water should be drunk or - if this is no longer possible - physiological saline solution should be infused intravenously.

Effects on the brain and other damage

Even moderate alcohol consumption (0.2 per mille blood alcohol, corresponding to about 0.3 l beer, 100 ml wine or a high-proof schnapps, depending on body weight and constitution) affects the nervous system and especially the brain: the field of vision is narrowed (beginning tunnel vision), and response times slow down. Researchers at Stockholm University have found that 50g of ethanol (about a liter of beer) a day causes permanent damage.

Amount of alcoholic beverages Blood alcohol Effects
1 glass of beer (0.33 l) or 0.2 l of wine < 0,2 ‰=""> disinhibiting effect with increased talkativeness
2–3 glasses of beer or 0.5 l of wine 0,5 ‰ Significant decrease in the ability to react, especially to red signals, significant increase in willingness to take risks
5–6 glasses of beer or 1 liter of wine 1,0 ‰ incipient loss of coordination of movements, balance and reflexes, marked drunkenness
8–9 glasses of beer or 1.5 liters of wine 1,5 ‰ Chatting addiction, self-talk, stuttering and wavering, being very drunk
11–12 glasses of beer or 2 liters of wine 2,0 ‰ Vomiting, helpless state, severe imbalance, severe intoxication
from 2.5 ‰ Disturbance of breathing and blood circulation, the motor nerves fail, the consciousness is suspended, mortal danger
over 4 ‰ mostly fatal

Note: These figures are average values ​​and can vary widely.

Heavy alcohol consumption leads to a condition known as drunkenness. This is characterized on the one hand by physical changes such as psychologically increased emotionality, on the other hand by a changed perception of consciousness and reduced mental performance. Most of the time, excessive alcohol consumption leads to nausea and vomiting. However, only the part of the alcohol that has not yet entered the bloodstream is excreted.

Alcohol also affects sexuality and fertility. Alcohol consumption often leads to disinhibition, especially in men, also to an increase in libido. At the same time, however, the ability to function in an erection is reduced to the point of complete erectile dysfunction. In addition, alcohol has a harmful effect on testicles and sperm. It also leads to a decrease in testosterone production, which has negative effects on a variety of body functions.

Recent studies (Prof. E. Abel, USA) have shown that paternal alcohol consumption before conception not only increases the risk of miscarriages, but can also have a harmful effect on child development.

However, the consumption of alcohol by the mother during pregnancy is much more harmful, as it can lead to the development of the so-called fetal alcohol syndrome, among other things. This is often due to an impairment of the child's mental development and physical malformations (z. B. Heart defects) marked. Damage to the children of alcohol-dependent mothers is one of the most common prenatal health problems. In general, all alcohol consumption should be avoided during pregnancy. Even a very small amount can have fatal consequences for the child if it is taken at an inconvenient time in the embryonic development.

In even larger quantities, acute alcohol intoxication sets in, which can lead to coma or direct death. The rapid consumption of high-proof spirits is particularly dangerous, as the nausea threshold occurs more slowly than a life-threatening rise in blood alcohol levels. Quickly drinking a whole bottle of schnapps, which contains 150 ml-200 ml ethanol, can lead to a fatal collapse due to the paralysis of the brain stem center. Furthermore, there is a risk of additional poisoning if the luxury food is contaminated with large amounts of by-products such as fusel alcohol or methanol, which are enriched in the distillation on which the spirits are based.

Even if the pleasant effects of light consumption may be desirable for a limited time on positive occasions, drunkenness in inappropriate situations causes an unmistakable amount of human suffering every year (including fatal traffic accidents).

Likewise, long-term consumption alone or together with other factors can lead to serious health damage: cardiovascular diseases, severe damage to the liver, the entire nervous system and the brain.

Alcohol addiction and abuse as the cause of death

Main article: Alcohol sickness

Alcohol can produce a very strong and physical and / or psychological dependence, the physical dependence is associated with severe withdrawal symptoms. Up to 2 million people are alcoholic in Germany alone, and around 10 million are at risk of addiction.

In Germany, around 40,000 people died from alcohol abuse in 2002 [12], which in turn corresponded to around two percent of all deaths, with men three times more likely to be affected than women.

The most common alcohol-related cause of death was alcoholic liver cirrhosis with 9,550 deaths (source: Federal Statistical Office). The WHO figures of December 29, 2004 amount to 21,675 deaths for 2004, of which 8,381 children between the ages of 10-15 years. Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) is a disease with a mortality (death rate) of over 50 percent, which is caused in particular in connection with alcohol and fatty foods.

The then drug commissioner of the federal government and state secretary in the Federal Ministry of Health, Marion Caspers-Merk, spoke of 40,000 deaths as a result of alcohol consumption in Germany in 2003, compared with 1,477 people who died as a result of illegal drugs and 110,000 as a result of tobacco smoking.
(Source: Drugs and Addiction Report 2004)

Doctors or self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or the Guttempler, as well as addiction counseling centers and various other self-help groups, offer help.

Cancer risk

In addition to partly incurable diseases such as liver cirrhosis and nervous diseases, excessive consumption of alcohol can also cause many types of cancer (such as stomach cancer and esophageal cancer). According to many scientific studies, regular consumption of even small amounts of alcoholic beverages increases the risk of cancer in general and, in particular, of breast cancer. [13][14][15]

The carcinogenic effect is caused by the ethanal, to which ethanol is broken down in the liver. The ethanal is converted to crotonaldehyde by polyamines, which in turn destroys the DNA.[16]

Possible positive health effects

It is highly controversial whether alcoholic beverages can have a positive effect on health. Many ostensibly positive effects are canceled out by others, such as the greatly increased risk of cancer with regular consumption of even small amounts, which has been confirmed by scientific studies.

Doctors warn against tearing individual effects out of the overall context. For example, red grape juice contains the same heart-strengthening substances as red wine. Wine drinkers are also more likely to come from higher income groups than beer drinkers or drinkers of higher percentage alcohol. If the layer influence is excluded, the supposedly positive effect disappears.

The increased loss of vitamins and minerals when consuming alcohol must also be taken into account.

In 1991, the French professor Serge Renaud postulated his thesis of the "French Paradox" (French Paradox).

A number of epidemiological studies show that an extremely moderate consumption of certain alcoholic beverages - especially red wine - (about 1–2 glasses per day) over long periods of time should protect against coronary heart disease. In addition, up to 20–40 g of alcohol in men and up to 10–20 g in women were found to have a longer life expectancy. This corresponds to 1/4 liter of red wine or 1/2 liter of beer per day.

The higher life expectancy is only a statistical effect, however, since among the anti-alcoholics there are also people who do not drink alcohol precisely because of an illness and the associated lower life expectancy.[17][18]

Above these amounts, the positive effect is clearly reversed.

Many studies have been funded by the Alcohol Task Force of the International Life Sciences Institute Foundation, whose members are Moët & Chandon, Allied Domecq, Brasseries Kronenbourg, Heineken and Diageo. In Germany, many studies were commissioned by the German Wine Academy (DWA), which is financed by the wine producers. 160,000 euros were spent on domestic press work alone. The French Sopexa spent 800,000 euros on German media.

A new meta-analysis of 54 international studies that dealt with alcohol and heart protection - the oldest was from 1974, the most recent from 2004 - raises fundamental doubts about the repeatedly postulated positive health effects of moderate alcohol consumption. [19] The bottom line of this now questionable research is that moderate alcohol consumption lowers the rate of heart attacks and strokes in the long term. If one plots the mortality (Y-axis) against alcohol consumption (X-axis), a J-curve (so called because it resembles a lying J) results according to the interpretation of these study results, according to which the cardiovascular and general mortality is lowest with light alcohol consumption, but then increases rapidly and by leaps and bounds. People who drink little alcohol therefore lived longer than abstainers or heavy drinkers.

The meta-analysis published in 2006, however, comes to the conclusion that 47 of the 54 examined studies show a serious error, as a result of which the above-mentioned conclusions lose their credibility. So were most of the studies former Alcohol consumers - with all their health problems accumulated from previous alcohol consumption - are assigned to the group of abstainers. These "late" abstainers, who only gave up drinking at an advanced age due to chronic illnesses - partly caused by alcohol consumption - become the "real" abstainers, i.e. those people who have been avoiding alcohol for many years or never drank any, put them in a group. However, this approach generally reduces the average state of health of the people in the group of “abstainers” - a considerable methodological error according to the authors of the meta study. This creates the - wrong - impression in the group of (real) anti-alcoholics that there is a higher number of deaths than with moderate drinkers, so that the latter in turn appear to be particularly healthy and long-lived. However, if one takes into account the “abstainer's mistake”, the postulated positive effects of moderate alcohol consumption are reduced or they are no longer present at all. Viewed graphically, increasing alcohol consumption does not result in a (pronounced) J-curve at all, but rather a steady increase in alcohol-related deaths and illnesses.

Kaye Fillmore from the University of California at San Francisco, an author of the meta-analysis, also points out that when assessing the health effects of moderate alcohol consumption, the typical mistake of confusing cause and effect is often made: “We know that older people who drink moderately alcohol are healthier than their non-drinkers of the same age"Says Fillmore,"Drinking is a result of their general well-being, but not its cause. Many people avoid alcohol in old age due to health problems.“As a result, these people are not sick because they do not drink (moderately), but they do not drink because they are sick.

The authors of the meta-study come to the conclusion that the protective, life-prolonging effect of alcohol was clearly overestimated in the past due to the described "abstainer error", but do not want to rule out positive health effects of moderate drinking in principle - this is lacking for a well-founded statement it is simply about error-free studies.

Metastudies, i.e. the comprehensive analysis of various studies using statistical means, are, in the opinion of their critics, a risky undertaking, since this approach can lead to a number of methodological problems;[20] unequivocal conclusions are therefore not necessarily possible with this type of analysis. The gerontologist John B. Standridge praised the work of the researchers working with Kaye Fillmore, but still does not doubt that moderate alcohol consumption is beneficial to health.

The reason for the possible positive effects is not the alcohol itself, but accompanying substances (phytochemicals from red grapes and ingredients of brewer's yeast) that can be found in wine and beer and that are made available by the alcohol, which is a good solvent (Solvent theory). Therefore, schnapps and most liqueurs do not have any comparable effects.

In other cultures, however, other alcoholic beverages are statistically more beneficial, and no significant difference was found between individual types of beverage (beer, wine and spirits), so this speaks in favor of the social component as the only positive factor.

A study of 38,000 employees in the American health system showed that the consumption of beer and other spirits - but not wine - reduced the risk of heart attack. A study from Shanghai, on the other hand, described lower coronary mortality among rice wine drinkers.

Population genetic aspects of alcohol

It has long been accepted that the people of America (“Indians” and Inuit), who originally came from East Asia, are considerably more sensitive to alcohol than Europeans. This was deliberately exploited when the Europeans penetrated the American continent by distributing schnapps as "fire water" to local tribes (who called the schnapps themselves "secret water") - many contracts for assignments of territory or walks into the reservation came from getting drunk Tribal leaders. East Asians also show - albeit less consistently than the Native Americans - a lower alcohol tolerance than Europeans. Tolerance is very different among black Africans.

The reason for this lies in the faster breakdown of blood alcohol in most Europeans. While they are still drinking, a biochemical reaction begins in which the alcohol is broken down by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase. The ethanal (an aldehyde) formed as an intermediate product leads to what is known as hangover in higher concentrations.

Genetic studies showed that the genetic alleles for the enzyme Alcohol dehydrogenase is different among Europeans than among people of other origins. These alleles differ from one another in some bases and lead to slightly different variants of alcohol dehydrogenase (so-called isoenzymes). There may be purity (homozygosity) or mixed inheritance (heterozygosity) with regard to the alleles. Research on Americans of Asian descent showed that homozygous people with the ALDH2 * 2 allele have a significantly lower breakdown rate for blood alcohol. Mixed-breed people showed the same rate of breakdown as pure-blooded people with the genotype ALDH2 * 1, but built up the intermediate product ethanal (den "Hangover stuff") slower.

The fact that Europeans are considered to have a higher alcohol tolerance is likely to be a mixed effect of the faster breakdown due to the enzyme equipment and the higher alcohol tolerance through habituation.

Legal Restrictions

Restricting availability is one of the few effective measures that a state has to reduce overall alcohol consumption and thus alcohol-related damage: for example, restricting shop and bar opening times, the number of establishments that are allowed to sell alcohol; make the granting of permits for the sale of alcohol subject to conditions (license, fees, host examination, etc.); legal minimum age; Increase in alcohol tax.

In some, preferably Islamic, countries, alcohol is prohibited by law. Drinks such as absinthe are or were, until recently, banned in many European countries because of their (allegedly) increased risk potential.

During the American prohibition period (1919–1932), the sale of alcohol was prohibited by law in the United States. This led to the massive emergence of illegal pubs (speakeasies) and the flourishing of organized crime. In the USA there are still communities with a ban on the sale, advertising and public consumption of alcohol (community autonomy), for example in Lynchburg, Tennessee, the home of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.

There is a liquor monopoly in Germany.

Protection of minors

In Germany and Switzerland, according to the Youth Protection Act, alcoholic beverages may not be given to persons under the age of 16 and drinks containing brandy may only be served from the age of 18 (Section 9 (1)). In Germany, the public consumption of alcoholic beverages that do not contain brandy is permitted when accompanied by a parent or guardian from the age of 14, there are no other restrictions.

In Austria, protection of minors is a matter for the federal states. In Vienna, Vorarlberg, Lower Austria and Burgenland, alcohol consumption is generally only permitted from the age of 16. In the other federal states, drinks with an alcohol content of up to 14 percent by volume may be drunk at the age of 16 and those above that at the age of 18. Other countries - for example the USA (most states) - provide that the minimum age for public and private consumption of alcohol is 21 years of age.

Road traffic

Since alcohol makes it difficult to drive, driving under the influence of alcohol is a criminal offense in most countries around the world.


  • Singer, Teyssen (Ed.): Alcohol and alcohol sequelae. 2nd Edition. Springer, Heidelberg 2005, ISBN 3-540-22552-8.
  • Günter Schmidt: ALEX - The Alcohol Lexicon. Books on Demand (BoD), Norderstedt 2002. ISBN 3-8311-3825-7
  • Bernhard van Treeck: Drugs and addiction dictionary. Lexikon-Imprint-Verlag, Berlin 2003. ISBN 3-89602-221-0
  • Bernhard van Treeck: Drugs. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 2003. ISBN 3-89602-420-5
  • Arthur L. Klatsky: Alcohol for the heart. in: Spectrum of science. Spektrumverlag, Heidelberg 25.2003,10, pp. 62-68. ISSN 0170-2971
  • J. Kauhanen et al .: Beer binging and mortality, results from the Kuopio ischaemic heart desease risk factor study, a prospective population based study. in: British Medical Journal. London 315.1997, p. 846. ISSN 0267-0623
  • E. B. Rimm et al .: Moderate alcohol intake and lower risk of coronary heart desease, meta-analysis on effects on lipids and haemostatic factors. in: British Medical Journal. London 319.1999, p. 1523. ISSN 0267-0623
  • K. Nanchal et al .: Alcohol consumption, metabolic cardiovascular risk factors and hypertension in women. in: International Journal on Epidemiology. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford 29.2000, p. 57. ISSN 0300-5771
  • C. Power et al .: U-shaped relation for alcohol consumption and health in early adulthood and implications for mortality. in: The Lancet. Elsevier Science, New York 352.1988, p. 877. ISSN 1474-547X
  • Hans-Peter Beck-Bornholdt: The dog that lays eggs. Detecting misinformation through cross-thinking. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 2002. ISBN 3-499-61154-6
  • Knut Kröger: Life expectancy - the myth of red wine. in: Deutsches Ärzteblatt. Cologne 100.2003,42 (October 17), pp. A-2706, B-2260, C-2120. ISSN 0012-1207

See also

  • Alcohol sickness
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Hangover (alcohol)
  • Alcotest
  • Per mille
  • Whips
  • Alcohol tourism
  • Alcoholology
  • Liquor
  • Ranking of the most dangerous drugs: 5th position