Medicinal use for ethyl alcohol

My father says he drinks “medicinally”. The only medicinal use I know of for alcohol is to counteract antifreeze poisoning, which has never happened to him. Are there any other ways it is used as medicine?

It can be used as an antiseptic, at high enough concentrations.

Can be a sleep aid if enough is used.

Doctors sometimes order an alcoholic beverage for a patient, as an appetite stimulant or sleep aid. It doesn’t happen much, but I can assure you that every hospital pharmacy has some beer, wine, or even stronger stuff on hand, and many nursing homes do too. We logged it in the C-II file, along with morphine, cocaine, OxyContin, etc.

Incredibly, at one time it was even used intravenously to stop preterm labor. :eek: It worked, too. I’d read about it, and a pharmacist who had dispensed it for this reason said that the next day, the women obviously needed treatment for hangovers.

For different types of “antifreeze,” ethyl alcohol can be used to counteract methanol (wood alcohol) poisoning.

It was given to my old, senile, alcoholic uncle. One ounce/day was enough to keep him from going into the DT’s.

I suspect he is joking. During Prohibition, alcohol could be obtained for medical purposes, and there was a great increase in the people who suddenly found medical reasons to drink.

On the off chance he’s serious, here are a couple articles on possible benefits. But there are other ways to get similar benefits, so these are mostly used as justification for something people are going to do anyway.

First off my guess is that OP’s father is messing with him and he didn’t get it.

Having said that, a friend of mine was an alcoholic. Hardcore, alcoholic. One of those guys that’s that you can find falling off a bar stool at 9am and still going strong at 3pm. The guy drank A LOT.
A few years back he had to have a knee replaced and the doctor informed him that they don’t have the ability, at that hospital, to deal with him going into withdrawals and asked him to bring in some booze. Not a lot mind you, but they just wanted him to sneak a beer or take a slug of tequila here and there through out the day. Just enough so his body didn’t think he quit drinking. FTR, he’s not a pain killer person. In general he doesn’t take narcotic pain meds, so it’s possible he may have refused them while he was there, at least as much as possible. I’m not sure if being in pain AND being sober for, more or less, the first in years, could make things worse.

Anyways, I was surprised. I thought if the doctor was really worried about it they’d make him quit, but apparently this is how they handled it. My friend thought it was just great. It probably also helps that he’s one of those people that you might not know is drunk (years of practice, I guess). It’s not that he’s stumbling around or mean or anything. I’m sure they weren’t worried about him getting hammered in his hospital bed.

Gosh, doesn’t sound a lot like some of the stories about medical marijuana?

I have a relative who said he only had one drink a day. Problem was, it was a huge glass of straight vodka, which he didn’t tell the doctor, so he had a seizure after major surgery and had to be placed into an artificial coma for several days. I’ve even heard of hospitals running out of injectable Valium for patients like this.

The relative stopped drinking after that.

For some people, yes. For others, no.

Funnily enough, I just read a Cracked article which linked to this news story about a man whose vision was saved using a quick infusion of Scotch. Apparently ethanol can be an effective treatment for formaldehyde poisoning.

But uh, please don’t try this at home.

Someone with an alcoholic parent who went into the hospital for unrelated problems described them being treated with some other drug to manage the alcohol withdrawal. It wasn’t alcohol, at least I think not. Any idea what that was?

For my grandmother, it was a great antimigraine medication (“was” because she doesn’t have access to it any more, but we used to refer to the brandy as “the bottle of aspirin”); SiL-the-doctor says she knows other cases, none of them alcoholics. Her guess is that it’s either BP-related or just the general relaxant effect. Grandma’s headaches are definitely stress-related.

It used to be popular as a solvent, many organic compounds (which most medications are) will dissolve more easily in a water/ethanol mixture than in water alone.

Ethyl alcohol is a useful ‘quick fix’ for acute alcohol withdrawal (which can be fatal). NOT the drug of choice for it (Napier: benzodiazepines are much more effective and safer) but handy in an emergency.

It’s also been used to treat premature term labor, but again there are better tocolytics (not that any meds work real good to stop labor when the body decides it’s time to start it).

Alcohol is a component of some cough remedies.

they gave my old man Oxazepam for just this reason, but I’m sure several members of the benzodiazepine family could perform this function.

When I started work for the NHS, I was based in a general hospital. One of my co-workers was a widow in her 50s who used to go and visit an elderly relative in the geriatric ward after work.

She told me that in the evening, all the patients were given a small glass of brandy. Because her friend didn’t like it, she would pass it to the lady in the next bed when the nurses weren’t looking.

It wasn’t until after the lady in the next bed died, that she discovered that the brandy contained a good slug of morphine. She was worried that she may have helped send the woman on her way, but we were assured that while this was not likely, it was probably not a good idea.

Others mentioned the use of ethyl alcohol to combat various poisonings.

Typically the poisoning effects are not due to the substance itself (e.g. wood alcohol) but rather the breakdown products after it is metabolized.

Giving ethyl alcohol works to tie up the relevant enzymes, preventing the poisonous substance from being broken down until it can be eliminated intact by the urinary system.

For example, wood alcohol, aka methyl alcohol, is metabolized into formadehyde and then into formic acid. The formaldehyde and formic acid do really bad things to the body. But by heavily dosing with ethyl alcohol the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme is so tied up processing good old ethyl alcohol into acetylaldehyde that little methyl alcohol is broken down.

So is water, but I wouldn’t say that really makes cough suppression a “medicinal use” of water. Does alcohol have any antitussive effect or is it just used as a solvent for the active ingredients?