Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

pp 73-76


  • Nathaniel John CooneyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Oklahoma State University Email author 


Depressants; Ethanol; Ethyl alcohol; Grain alcohol


Alcohol is an organic chemical compound that is comprised of an alkyl group (carbon chain) and a hydroxyl group (oxygen–hydrogen bound molecule). More commonly it is used to refer to a class of beverages containing the chemical ethanol, a psychoactive drug that depresses the central nervous system.


The term alcohol can refer to any organic chemical compound that includes one or more aliphatic hydroxyl groups (−OH) attached to an alkyl group (CnHn+1). While alcohols can exist in many forms, the term alcohol is more commonly used to describe the compound ethyl alcohol (or ethanol, abbreviated EtOH). As its name suggests, ethanol is comprised of an ethyl group (a two-carbon chain) and a hydroxyl group (an oxygen–hydrogen bound molecule), arranged in a straight chain and having the molecular formula C2H5OH (Fig. 1). Ethanol is the primary psychoactive ingredient found in most alcoholic beverages, and because of i ...

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