To determine whether actions on sodium channels contribute to ethanol's depressant effects on the autonomic nervous system, the acute effects of ethanol on Na+ currents in primary cultured superior cervical ganglion were examined by whole-cell patch clamp recordings. Ethanol inhibited Na+ currents concentration dependently, and decreased action potential firing. Ethanol (100 mM) did not affect activation curve, but resulted in a left shift of the inactivation curve and prolonged the recovery from inactivation. This finding indicates that the channels in the inactivated state are more susceptible to ethanol than those in the resting state. For the first time, this study demonstrates acute inhibitory effects of ethanol on sodium channel gating in sympathetic neurons.