What Factors Affect How Your Body Absorbs Alcohol?
There is no question that consuming alcohol makes many people feel great, at least for a short while. Once an alcoholic beverage is consumed, it descends to the stomach and small bowel and is absorbed into the blood. Once inside the bloodstream, the alcohol is transported to the brain, liver, kidneys, and muscles. Alcohol rapidly enters the brain where it exerts its soothing effects.
The actions of alcohol on the brain occur within a few minutes after consumption and within 30-90 minutes, it reaches it peak levels in the blood. The alcohol may diffuse into the other tissues like muscle, but it does not enter fatty tissues. However, the body does not have the capacity to store alcohol and hence, once the peak levels have been reached, the alcohol is broken down by the liver enzymes and then excreted slowly by the kidneys over the next 6-12 hours. This is the pharmacology of alcohol on the body, but in reality, there are many factors that influence its absorption, distribution, and breakdown in the body.
Factors That Influence The Level Of Alcohol In Your Body:
Alcohol is considered to be a toxin or a poison by the body and hence, it is broken down by the liver enzymes. In the liver, the alcohol is first broken down by the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase into a compound called acetaldehyde, which is then further broken down by another set of enzymes into non-toxic substances like acetic acid (vinegar) and water. These non-toxic breakdown products are then excreted by the kidneys. However, not everyone breaks down alcohol in the same manner or the same rate. Some populations have low levels of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, hence, alcohol remains in their body for long periods. These individuals can get drunk after consuming just one glass of wine or can of beer. Others do not have adequate amounts of the enzymes that break down acetaldehyde. It is the acetaldehyde that is responsible for the symptoms of the hangover such as nausea, vomiting, lethargy, inability concentrate, etc) after alcohol consumption. These individuals with an inability to break down acetaldehyde tend to have a long hangover that may last 48-72 hours or even longer. There are some genetic tests that can determine the status of the enzymes that break down alcohol, but they are not used simply to screen patient populations at risk for alcohol toxicity. These genetic tests are used to screen certain populations at risk for liver disease. The tests are also prohibitively expensive for routine use.
Liver Disease: People who have liver disease (hepatitis, cirrhosis) from any cause usually are not able to break down alcohol and consequently alcohol will remain in their body for a long time.
Eating and Drinking: In general, those people who drink alcohol on an empty stomach tend to have a rapid rise in the levels of alcohol. Thus, to slow down the effects of alcohol it is recommended that you eat a large meal that consists of bread, cheese, meat, etc). These foods slow down the absorption of alcohol from the stomach and the levels will not peak for an extended period of time.
Gender: In general, women get drunk much faster than men. The reason is that men have more muscle mass compared to women. Muscle tissue contains more water than fat and hence, the alcohol ingested also gets diluted. In addition, in women it appears that the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase occurs in a lesser amount, hence, the alcohol remains in the body for a longer time. A female of the same weight as a male will usually get drunk a lot faster while drinking the same amount of alcohol.
Age: Older people tend to break down alcohol much faster than younger people, and hence do not get drunk as quickly as the younger individuals. However, this is only true of elderly individuals who are healthy. Overall, elderly people tend to have many other health conditions which makes them unable to tolerate large amounts of alcohol.
Stress: People who are constantly stressed release a variety of hormones in their body. These hormones can act on the liver and also increase the flow of blood to the kidneys. Overall, people with acute stress breakdown alcohol faster than the non-stressed individual. Thus, the acutely stressed individual can drink a lot more before they get drunk. However, in individuals who are chronically stressed, the body has built up resistance to these hormones and they, in fact, may not only absorb alcohol faster but also may have difficulty breaking down the alcohol. thus, the chronically stressed individual is more likely to get drunk with alcohol compared to an acutely stressed person.
Medications: There are many medications that can affect the liver and compromise its function. Even over the counter drug acetaminophen, (Tylenol), can cause impairment of the liver when combined with alcohol. Alcohol can interact adversely with many medications and can compromise the function of the liver, which can result in rapid alcohol toxicity.
Health Problems: Individuals who have kidney or liver disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, deficiency of thiamine, hepatitis or any disorder of the liver are more likely to develop high levels of alcohol because the body is usually not able to process it. Many chronic disorders compromise the liver’s ability to break down alcohol.
Drinking Too Much Alcohol In One Session: The body only has a limited capacity to break down alcohol. Hence, when one drinks excessively in one session, the liver enzymes become saturated and are not able to process the alcohol and consequently the levels of alcohol remain high in the blood for a long time. To avoid getting drunk, drink conservatively (one or two glasses in one sitting) and drink the alcohol with food.
Small Size: In general, people who have less body mass are more prone to alcohol toxicity. These individuals have very little fat and hence the alcohol remains in the bloodstream for a longer time.
Obesity: People who are obese tend to have more fat than muscle. And since alcohol is not drawn into fat like it does into muscle, obese people who drink alcohol tend to rapidly become drunk because the alcohol remains in the blood for a longer period of time.
Overall, the best way to avoid problems related to alcohol is to abstain from it or to drink responsibly.
How Can An Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
If you’re facing a criminal charge of DUI or other alcohol-related charges, or have been accused of violating your school’s code of conduct due to an alcohol-related incident, you should seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Frost Law represents clients in all types of felony, misdemeanor and juvenile crimes, including DUI, as well as at student conduct hearings. Get help from an experienced trial attorney and former state prosecutor. Call (407) 670-5569 for a free consultation and review of your case.