Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Psychopharmacology

pp 8-8


  • Anthony L. RileyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, American University
  • , Steve KohutAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Psychopharmacology Laboratory, American UniversityPsychobiology Section, Medications Discovery Research Branch, National Institute on Drug Abuse


ADH; Ethanal


Acetaldehyde is an intermediate by-product in normal carbohydrate metabolism. It is known to psychopharmacologists as the first metabolite of alcohol that is eliminated primarily through oxidation by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase in the liver. Acetaldehyde, in turn, is converted to acetate by aldehyde dehydrogenase. Acetaldehyde has pharmacological effects on the cardiovascular system, the liver, monoamine neurotransmitter metabolism, brain function, and behavior. At high levels, it can be toxic, causing headache, facial flushing, nausea and vomiting, tachycardia, headache, sweating, dizziness, and confusion.

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