What is alcohol toxicity?

Updated: Jan 05, 2021
  • Author: Michael D Levine, MD; Chief Editor: Jeter (Jay) Pritchard Taylor, III, MD  more...
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Answer

Although any alcohol can be toxic if ingested in large enough quantities, the term toxic alcohol has traditionally referred to isopropanol, methanol, and ethylene glycol. [1, 2] Acute intoxication with any of the alcohols can result in respiratory depression, aspiration, hypotension, and cardiovascular collapse. Prompt recognition and treatment of patients intoxicated with these substances can reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with these alcohols.

This article discusses not only the three toxic alcohols but also ethanol. For discussion of the individual agents, see Methanol Toxicity and Ethylene Glycol Toxicity; for discussion of pediatric ethanol ingestion, see Ethanol Toxicity. Ethanol withdrawal is a serious and potentially life-threatening problem, which is discussed in Withdrawal Syndromes.


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