1. Hypoxic and hypercapnic ventilatory drives were measured in eight healthy male subjects before and after ingestion of ethanol, in a dose of 17 mmol/kg body weight.
2. A significant decrease in hypoxic ventilatory drive was observed at 20 min after ethanol (P < 0.05). A significant depression in hypercapnic drive was observed at 70 min after ingestion of ethanol (P < 0.05). The mean peak blood ethanol (24 mmol/l) occurred at 20 min, at which time the lowest mean hypoxic drive was recorded.
3. Ethanol in moderate doses produced a depression of both hypoxic and hypercapnic ventilatory drives in normal subjects. This suggests that ethanol may play a role in the precipitation of acute respiratory failure in certain patients in whom the ventilatory drive is already impaired, as in chronic airways obstruction.