Medical Uses of Alcohol: Alcohol (ethanol, ethyl alcohol), we are commonly known as a substance of abuse. Chronic alcoholism or excessive and regular drinking of alcohol (ethyl alcohol) is a common problem throughout the world. Alcoholism can be considered an important social evil. Alcohol is a substance, which is consumed for celebrating as well as in sad situations. Although most of us know alcohol as a substance of abuse or as a social evil, alcohol has several medical uses.
Various properties (alcohol is a colorless liquid and a versatile solvent, many drugs are soluble in alcohol, which may not be soluble in water or other commonly used solvents) of alcohol are used in the medical field. Alcohol is used as an antiseptic, as an antidote, as a solvent, and for many other purposes.
Alcohol as an antiseptic:
Many antiseptic preparations contain alcohol (Pharmacy grade alcohol, pharmaceutical ethanol, or disinfectant ethanol). Alcohol is effective against most bacteria, fungi, and viruses and it kills germs/organisms by denaturing their protein and dissolving their lipids. Ethanol-based antiseptic preparations including hand sensitizers, medical wipes, etc. are commonly used.
Ethanol (ethyl alcohol) as antidote:
Ethanol is used as an antidote in poisonings due to toxic alcohols such as methanol and ethylene glycol. Ethanol competes with the same enzymes (aldehyde dehydrogenase and alcohol dehydrogenase) that metabolize methanol into toxic formaldehyde and formic acid (responsible for optic nerve damage and blindness) and delay the metabolism of methanol and prevent its toxic effects.
Various other uses of alcohol (ethanol) are:
Alcohol is used as a rubefacient and counterirritant for sprains and joint pains.
Alcohol (rubbed over the skin) is used for preventing bedsores. It should not be used in already formed bedsores.
Alcohol is used as an appetite stimulant and carminatives (remove gas or bloating from the stomach).
Alcohol can be used for cold sponging to reduce fever, instead of cold water.
Alcohol is injected around the nerve to cause permanent loss of transmission in case of severe pain due to cancer or neuralgias.
Alcohol is used in antiperspirants and aftershave lotions.
Alcohol is used as a solvent in various pharmaceutical preparations such as cough syrups.