The nutrients protein, carbohydrates, and fat can be stored in our bodies, but alcohol cannot. For this reason, it takes priority over everything else in order to be metabolized; doing so means that all of the other processes that should be taking place are being interrupted. Other nutrients need to be broken up prior to being absorbed, whereas alcohol is absorbed as is.
The enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase begins some of the metabolism of alcohol in the stomach. Women have less of this enzyme, so alcohol passes through their stomachs and into their bloodstream quicker than in men. Once alcohol is absorbed, it spreads rapidly into the body water spaces, so the smaller size and higher body fat content of women increase its levels. Women metabolize about 10% of the alcohol ingested, while men metabolize about 30%.
The liver is the primary site for alcohol metabolism. Alcohol is detoxified and removed from the blood through a process called oxidation. Oxidation prevents the alcohol from accumulating and destroying cells and organs.
A small percent of the alcohol is excreted through the lungs and urine, which can be detected in breathalyzers. While being metabolized, alcohol is distributed throughout the body, affecting the brain and other tissues. Within minutes of being ingested, alcohol reaches the brain and initially gives the temporary impression of being a stimulant. Alcohol goes on to act as a depressant and a sedative, producing a sense of calm. It will also act as an anesthetic and hypnotic.
When you drink alcohol, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) will rise rapidly. Within five minutes of having a drink, there's enough alcohol in your blood to measure. The BAC is determined by how quickly alcohol is absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted. The following factors can influence the BAC:
- Food consumed.
- Chronic alcohol consumption.
- Drinking pattern.
The consumption of one standard drink will result in a peak in BAC within 35 to 45 minutes. A 150-pound person with normal liver function metabolizes about 7 to 14 grams of alcohol per hour, which is approximately 100 to 200 mg/kg of body weight per hour. This is comparable to 8 to 12 ounces of beer or half of an alcoholic drink.
Controlling the rate of consumption will give your liver time to metabolize the alcohol and limit your BAC. Once you stop drinking, your blood alcohol level decreases by about 0.01% per hour. You are legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.8.
Time is the only way to eliminate alcohol from your system, so cold showers and coffee will not sober you up. Trying to get someone who is drunk to feel and appear more alert can cause a false sense of sobriety and result in many problems.
This answer should not be considered medical advice...This answer should not be considered medical advice and should not take the place of a doctor’s visit. Please see the bottom of the page for more information or visit our Terms and Conditions.
Archived: March 20, 2014
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