This section is from the "A Handbook of Useful Drugs" book, by State Medical Examining and Licensing Boards.
In European pharmacopeias it is usually designated as Spiritus, and varies considerably in strength.
Properties : The official U. S. P. alcohol is a colorless volatile liquid containing about 94.9 per cent, by volume of absolute ethyl alcohol, C2H5OH, and 5.1 per cent. by volume of water. It has a characteristic odor and burning taste and is miscible in all proportions with water, ether or chloroform. In addition to alcohol, the U. S. P also describes absolute alcohol, used as a laboratory reagent, etc., and also diluted alcohol (approximately 50 per cent.) used in pharmacy as a menstruum.
Action and Uses: Externally, alcohol is a rubefacient and astringent, and by its evaporation, a refrigerant. It is used to harden and cleanse the skin; as a mild counter-irritant, (soap liniment), etc. In the concentration of 70 per cent, it is markedly antiseptic and is employed in surgery especially as Tincture of Green Soap, to cleanse the skin of patient and operator, internally, it is a narcotic, excessive doses depressing and paralyzing the central nervous system. Small doses produce cuphoria, stimulate respiration, moderately dilate the cutaneous and splanchnic vessels, and modify the circulation. It is burned in the body and thus serves to a restricted extent as a source of energy.
Alcohol is employed as a diffusible stimulant, diuretic, diaphoretic and hypnotic. In well-selected cases, especially in patients accustomed to its use, it may be very valuable; otherwise it is apt to do more harm than good. In practice it is usually administered in the form of whisky, brandy, wine or other alcohol-containing beverages. It is generally accepted, however, that the aromatic principles in these several articles are even more toxic than is alcohol itself, and these beverages are therefore more poisonous than equal amounts of alcohol diluted with water.
In pharmacy alcohol is used as a solvent and, for administering medicines, is largely used as a vehicle in the form of: