Alcohol

In today's society, alcohol is everywhere. We use alcohol to make us happy when we're down or just as something to do at a party. It relaxes you and allows you to have more fun. But alcohol abuse is becoming a major concern as well as a public health problem. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It is ingested through the mouth and some goes into the stomach but most goes into the small intestine. The heart pumps alcohol throughout the body and reaches the brain eventually. The liver oxidizes it at a rate of .5 oz per hour eventually being converted into water, carbon dioxide and energy.
In low doses, it produces a relaxing effect and slows reflexes. In medium doses, it causes drowsiness and altered emotions. In high doses, vomiting may occur as well as unconsciousness.
Chronic alcohol usage can lead to damaged frontal lobes of the brain, as well as other organs of the body. Eventually, it will turn into alcoholism as well as a variety of other problems.

References

Chudler, E. (2009, July). Alcohol. Retrieved January 3, 2009, from http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/alco.html'

Alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is any organic compound in which a hydroxyl group (-OH) is bound to a carbon atom of an alkyl or substituted alkyl group. The general formula for a simple acyclic alcohol is CnH2n+1OH. In common terms, the word alcohol refers to ethanol, the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. (Wikipedia 2008)
Ethanol is a colorless, volatile liquid with a mild odor which can be obtained by the fermentation of sugars. (Industrially, it is more commonly obtained by ethylene hydration—the reaction of ethylene with water in the presence of phosphoric acid.[1]) Ethanol is the most widely used depressant in the world, and has been for thousands of years. This sense underlies the term alcoholism (addiction to alcohol).
Simple Alcohols
The simplest and most commonly used alcohols are methanol and ethanol. Methanol was formerly obtained by the distillation of wood and called "wood alcohol." It is now a cheap commodity, the chemical product of carbon monoxide reacting with hydrogen under high pressure.[citation needed] Methanol is intoxicating but not directly poisonous. It is toxic by its breakdown (toxication) by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase in the liver by forming formic acid and formaldehyde which cause permanent blindness by destruction of the optic nerve. (Wikipedia 2008)
Apart from its familiar role in alcoholic beverages, ethanol is also used as a highly controlled industrial solvent and raw material. To avoid the high taxes on ethanol for consumption, additives are added to make it unpalatable (such as denatonium benzoate—"Bitrex") or poisonous (such as methanol). Ethanol in this form is known generally as denatured alcohol; when methanol is used, it may be referred to as methylated spirits ("Meths") or "surgical spirits".
Two other alcohols whose uses are relatively widespread (though not so much as those of methanol and ethanol) are propanol and butanol. Like ethanol, they can be produced by fermentation processes. (However, the fermenting agent is a bacterium, Clostridium acetobutylicum, that feeds on cellulose, not sugars like the Saccharomyces yeast that produces ethanol.)
Physical and Chemical Properties
Alcohols have an odor that is often described as “biting” and as “hanging” in the nasal passages. (Wikipedia 2008)
The hydroxyl group generally makes the alcohol molecule polar. Those groups can form hydrogen bonds to one another and to other compounds. This hydrogen bonding means that alcohols can be used as protic solvents. Two opposing solubility trends in alcohols are: the tendency of the polar OH to promote solubility in water, and of the carbon chain to resist it. Thus, methanol, ethanol, and propanol are miscible in water because the hydroxyl group wins out over the short carbon chain. Butanol, with a four-carbon chain, is moderately soluble because of a balance between the two trends. Alcohols of five or more carbons (Pentanol and higher) are effectively insoluble in water because of the hydrocarbon chain's dominance. All simple alcohols are miscible in organic solvents. (Wikipedia 2008)
Because of hydrogen bonding, alcohols tend to have higher boiling points than comparable hydrocarbons and ethers. The boiling point of the alcohol ethanol is 78.29 °C, compared to 69 °C for the hydrocarbon Hexane (a common constituent of gasoline), and 34.6 °C for Diethyl ether.
Alcohols, like water, can show either acidic or basic properties at the O-H group. With a pKa of around 16-19 they are generally slightly weaker acids than water, but they are still able to react with strong bases such as sodium hydride or reactive metals such as sodium. The salts that result are called alkoxides, with the general formula RO- M+.
Meanwhile the oxygen atom has lone pairs of nonbonded electrons that render it weakly basic in the presence of strong acids such as sulfuric acid. (Wikipedia 2008)

1. Wikipedia (2008) Alcohol, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol