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Chemical Formula

An alcohol is any molecule with the chemical structure of R-OH, with the main functional group being -OH. This means any molecule with a hydroxide functional group bonded to a carbon atom which forms part of a generic R group. Alcohols differ depending on the length of the carbon chain and the position of the OH group within the molecule and can be primary, secondary or tertiary. Common examples of alcohols are methanol (chemical formula CH3OH), ethanol (chemical formula C2H5OH) and petroleum or petrol (chemical formula C27H44O6)[1].

As E.N. Ramsden[2] explains, "alcohol is part of the homologous series". The number of hydrogen molecules present in a given alcohol with a known number of carbon molecules can be calculated using the formula CnH(2n+1)OH.

Alcohol Consumption

Ethanol is commonly consumed and can have a lot of negative health complications; direct damage to the liver causing ARLD or Alcohol-related liver diseases such as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a disease by which scar tissue replaces normal/healthy tissues in the liver. Over time this can cause obstruction to blood vessels in the liver and is very damaging to one's health. There were 6769 alcohol-related deaths in 2008, of which 4400 were caused by alcoholic liver disease[3].

The speed at which alcohol is metabolised can have an effect on drinking habits and drinking effects[4]. "Most ethanol elimination occurs by oxidation to acetaldehyde and acetate, catalyzed principally by alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH)"[5]. According to the NHS, 1 unit of alcohol is metabolised every hour on average[6]. This figure is based on a healthy person of normal weight and with no issues relating to the metabolic pathways associated with the metabolism of alcohol.


  2. E.N.Ramsden Key Science Third Edition 2001, page 324
  3. Office for National Statistics: Alcohol Deaths (2008) Available at: Accessed: 23/07/2010
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