How Ethanol Helps Antifreeze Poisoning

Did you know that Ethanol, a common alcohol that has been drunk for its intoxicating effects for centuries, is also an actual prescription medication? It is one that is used for a variety of treatments in facilities, one of which being as a key player in the prevention and the treatment of antifreeze poisoning? Ethanol was introduced in prescription form in 1980 although it has been around for over 6,000 years in moonshine, wines, beer, or other alcohols. It has been used as a medicinal product far longer than its 1980 prescription use. (Who doesn’t remember the shot of whisky and lemon to aid your sleeping?)

Ethanol has been used clinically as an intravenous (IV) treatment of antifreeze poisoning (ethylene glycol) or as a preventative to antifreeze poisoning. The intravenous treatment is a mix of ethanol in different percentages, the most common being 5%, 10% or even 95%.

As an antifreeze poisoning treatment, ethanol prevents the key ingredient in antifreeze, the ethylene glycol, from being metabolized into toxic chemicals in the body. This lets the body remove the ethylene glycol harmlessly through the body’s waste. Simply speaking, the ethanol lets you “pee it out”.

Dosages range from 0.6 to 0.7 grams ethanol per kilogram of body mass. However, if you suspect antifreeze poisoning, call the national poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. You can start nonprescription preventative dosing with vodka and orange juice. Make sure to tell the admitting physician how much alcohol was consumed, how long ago, and what type, so as to not jeopardize treatment. And please, don’t just get drunk and tell them “well I thought I was poisoned”.

Ethanol should not be used if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past, or if you have epilepsy, a history of alcohol addiction with you or your family, or if you have a urinary tract infection, if you are pregnant currently or nursing a child, or if you are in a diabetic coma.

Remember that ethanol is alcohol and the prolonged use of ethanol can cause addiction with withdrawal symptoms known as the D.T.’s or delirium tremens. Ethanol like any other alcohol can be severely misused and abused for non medicinal gains that can lead to further harming the body. Many illnesses and diseases are related to over indulging of alcohol, cirrhosis of the liver being one of them. Please use in moderation and responsibly.

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