Alcohol produced solely for drinking is actually Ethanol, molecular structure C2H5OH.
Humans have been producing Alcohol for the purpose of intoxication almost as long as they have existed. Pottery found in China dating back 9,000 years shows evidence that it was made for alcohol storage. It has many uses for science including being a fuel capable of powering motor vehicles, but its main application is in alcoholic beverages.
Ethanol (alcohol) is a depressant. It has been linked to more than 50% of self harm incidences in the UK, as well as over 60% of suicides. Additives in many alcoholic drinks are linked to suppression of the intellect, and repeated binge drinking or long term inebriation can cause alcoholic psycosis among many other mental issues (see our page on Korsakoffs’ Syndrome)
The addictive nature of alcohol, or alcoholic beverages to be exact (pure alcohol would kill you it’s a poison after all!) is due to the stimulating effect of alcohol on the Mesolimbic Pathway in the brain. This is the ‘reward centre’ of the brain, and its constant stimulation by ethanol / alcohol can change the its’ neurobiology, causing the feeling that only the stimulant can bring reward, addiction. For more information on changes in neurobiology, see ‘The Secret Disease’.