Organic compound, most important of the alcohols, chemical formula CH3CH2OH. Produced by fermentation, it is the intoxicating ingredient in alcoholic beverages. Ethanol for industrial purposes is made by either fermentation or chemical synthesis, then purified by distillation and, to avoid the tax levied on ethyl alcohol for drinking, made unfit to drink (see denaturation) by mixing it with compounds such as methanol, benzene, or kerosene. Ethanol has many uses as a solvent, a raw material, an extraction medium, an antifreeze, an antiseptic, and a gasoline additive and substitute. It is toxic, depressing the central nervous system, and addictive to some persons (see alcoholism). Moderate amounts depress the inhibitory activities of the brain and so appear to stimulate the mind, but larger amounts seriously impair coordination and judgment; excessive consumption can cause coma and death. Taking ethanol in combination with barbiturates or related drugs is especially dangerous.
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