Annually, 88,000 fatalities directly related to alcohol are reported in the US, while alcohol is also responsible for accidents that result in close to 10,000 deaths annually. Unsurprisingly, alcohol is the third leading cause of fatalities in the US that could have been prevented. Use and abuse of alcohol is highly prevalent in American society with about 56 percent of Americans above the age of 18 reportedly consuming alcohol at least once a month. To compound matters further, alcohol sourced from fermented grains, commonly known as grain alcohol, is increasingly being consumed. This poses serious risks, aggravating the health of individuals consuming pure alcohol. It is time to take a serious look at what makes grain alcohol dangerous? This is a critical need in society to eliminate additional burden in healthcare. Here’s the complete picture that will clearly highlight the dangers associated with grain alcohol.
What is grain alcohol and what makes grain alcohol dangerous?
Grain alcohol is regarded as one of the most potent forms of alcohol, made from fermented grain. With 95 percent of alcohol content, it can result in swift loss of consciousness and poisoning, which is often mistaken for a high. The chemical name for grain alcohol is ethanol. This spirit is distilled twice and is more of a neutral form which makes it an ingredient in many spirit based products. To put the alcohol content into perspective, here’s a look at the content in typical liquors.
Type Liquor content (ABV)
Malt liquor 7%
Fruit liqueurs 32%
Vodka, rum and whisky are traditionally considered to be on the higher end of the alcohol scale. However, as can be seen above, even these three hard liquors are nowhere near the alcohol content of grain alcohol. It therefore does not take much to look at the question – what makes grain alcohol dangerous? The alcohol content is itself a reason for the health hazards associated with consuming ethanol in the purest form. Before we look at the other reasons, it is time to understand the different types of alcohol that are distilled for various uses.
What are the different types of alcohol and what makes grain alcohol dangerous?
The three different types of alcohol include ethanol, methanol and isopropanol. Among the three types of alcohol, ethanol is the only category that is fit for consumption by humans. While grain alcohol belongs to the category of ethanol, it is the purest form and hence potent to the extent that it could have instant adverse effects on individuals. As we get about answering the question – what makes grain alcohol dangerous let us also look at the other two types of alcohol in brief for a better perspective. Methanol, commonly known as methyl alcohol is used in a large number of products that we use every day. For instance, it is used as a strong liquid for removing paint, to prevent freezing and is an ingredient in the fuel used in boats and cars. Isopropanol, commonly known as isopropyl alcohol, is used mainly as a disinfectant or for cleaning. Also known as rubbing alcohol, it is an important product in healthcare. Both methanol and isopropanol are toxic to the human body, and consumption of small volumes itself can be extremely dangerous, seriously damaging the liver.
Why does ethanol have harmful effects on the body when the alcohol content is high?
This more or less answers the question what makes grain alcohol dangerous? Ethanol, commonly known as ethyl alcohol is the result of fermentation of sugar and yeast in addition to starch. The reason why ethanol can end up causing harmful effects on humans is because the liver cannot metabolize ethanol beyond a particular quantity. Consequently, the spirit ends up damaging vital organs of the body, when liquor is consumed as a matter of routine/frequently. As the liver is unable to metabolize liquor beyond specific quantities, sustained damage occurs over a period of time. The risk associated with this increases when the alcohol content also increases. Grain alcohol which has high alcohol content ends up causing serious health issues in individuals.
While there are three types of alcohol as seen above (ethanol, methanol and isopropanol), they are basically in two different categories – distilled and undistilled. Liquor with lower alcoh
What is distillation and what makes grain alcohol dangerous?
ol content typically belongs to the undistilled category while hard/stronger liquor belongs to the distilled category. For instance, wine and beer are undistilled forms of alcohol while whiskey and other spirits are distilled forms of alcohol. To put it in other words, drinks made by the process of fermentation – chemical conversion of sugar into ethanol through yeast are undistilled drinks (wine and beer).
Distillation is the process of obtaining heavier alcohol concentration by distilling the alcohol from water and other liquids in fermented products. This makes the distilled liquor/spirits heavier in alcohol content (whisky, brandy etc.). Here it is apt to mention that grain alcohol, in the category of distilled spirits is more potent than typical spirits and this is precisely what makes grain alcohol dangerous.
The process of making grain alcohol
Grain alcohol is made from water, yeast, corn and sugar, through a process of fermentation. The resultant product is highly inflammable, which explains the preference for local distillation of the spirit. Sprouts from corn are dried and ground into cornmeal, following which it is made into mash by boiling the cornmeal with water. When the mash is warm, yeast is added along with sugar, and the mixture is allowed to ferment. During the fermentation process, it is converted into alcohol and carbonic acid. This is then distilled into ethanol through a process of vaporization, to extract pure alcohol. Double distillation is the process of repeat vaporization to remove impurities and other substances. The end product is highly potent ethanol, characterized by a clear and colorless form of liquid, free from any odor or taste. The purest form of ethanol is known to induce coughing in individuals through a harsh, burning sensation during consumption. This process of distillation of fermented substances into pure forms of ethanol with potent levels of alcohol is what makes grain alcohol dangerous for consumption, especially in party settings, where individuals may be clueless about the contents.
Various conditions/adverse effects associated with grain alcohol consumption
Due to the processes involved in the making of grain alcohol and the eventual high potency, it is considered dangerous to drink the double distilled ethanol. One of the reasons for the popularity of grain alcohol among sections of society, especially teenagers is the low cost of the product and the high alcohol content. The search for an all-time high or a fix leads teenagers to spirits that promise high alcohol levels. The most common and serious effects of grain alcohol include :
· Brain damage
· Road accidents
· Organ damage
· Casual and unprotected sex
The lack of taste, color and odor is what makes grain alcohol dangerous as it is easily mixed with popular drinks in parties and this helps party goers hit a high through cocktails. Hardcore drinkers who are addicted to alcohol consumption look for stronger drinks and choose grain alcohol due to the heavy alcohol content. Consequently, in both categories of users – one time and regular – the risk of brain/liver damage and other complications on health/behavior are extremely high. This includes alcohol poisoning which occurs as a result of consuming large amounts of alcohol/highly potent alcohol that the body is unable to handle. Common symptoms of alcohol poisoning include the following :
· Irregular breathing or abnormally slow breathing
· Discoloration of the skin – pale/blue
High levels of intoxication can result in alcohol poisoning and this is exactly what makes grain alcohol dangerous, due to the potent levels of alcohol. Most individuals are unaware that alcohol poisoning in some cases can possibly result in coma or a fatality, depending on the condition and the level of poisoning.
Fact sheet about grain alcohol
To summarize, the high alcohol content is what makes grain alcohol dangerous in addition to its lack of taste, color or odor that makes it easy to mix in party drinks and cocktails. Grain alcohol is one of the purest form and most potent forms of alcohol with extremely high levels of alcohol – 95% ABV and 190 proof. The average human body will find it extremely challenging to handle high alcohol levels and this can cause complications that may eventually turn serious or fatal. Many states in the US have banned the distillation and consumption of grain alcohol due to the proven risks associated with its consumption.