Alcoholics are normally addicted to ethanol, but I was wondering, as an alcoholic (recovering), whether it is actually a broader addiction to the super-class of all alcohols. I know that methanol is sometimes used to adulterate liquor, and causes similar intoxication, but with severe toxicity. It is also sometimes used by desperate winos as a long term, cheaper, and more widely available substitute. A store doesn't need a license to sell methanol or denatured ethanol.

I'm asking because I want to try an develop a test for use by alcoholics, to see if food or drink contains any alcohol, or how much, and I would either have to develop the test for any type of alcohol at all, or only the commonly drunk ones. E.g. should it include, say, rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol, often available also as a cleaning agent, which is quite toxic with a lethal dose being only eight ounces.

  • I know alcoholics will sometimes resort to isopropyl, but I can't imagine how they would survive resorting to methanol.
    – Carey Gregory
    Mar 30, 2018 at 22:14

1 Answer 1


If you want to test for any alcohol that could theoretically make someone feel the same effects as drinking ethanol-containing drinks, this article indicates that you may need to test for alcohols of many chain lengths between 1 (methanol) and 12 (dodecanol). (It doesn't explicitly say whether or not isopropyl or even straight-chain propyl alcohol causes the effect that is being studied as possibly the main effect of liquor.)

The quote I'm looking at is

With respect to GABA_A receptors, a number of alcohols with different carbon numbers in their backbone (indicated in parenthesis), including methanol (3), butanol (4), hexanol (6), octanol (8), decanol (10) and dodecanol (12), potentiate GABA-gated current.

It's not clear whether they got the names or the numbers wrong for methanol: methanol has only 1 carbon.

  • Great find! I wonder if there’s been made a revision of the paper, because that’s a rather significant mistake. (I‘m curious as to why the reviews process didn’t catch it, too).
    – Narusan
    Mar 30, 2018 at 22:01
  • Butanol has 4 carbons. It's propanol that has 3.
    – Jan
    Mar 31, 2018 at 7:31

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