Many adults enjoy a few drinks every now and again. Yet, most have limited knowledge of how our bodies process alcohol. While it usually doesn’t matter too much for occasional social drinkers, it can be problematic for people who plan to drink large amounts. The time alcohol stays in the body depends on many factors. However, some guidelines hold true for most people.
The Absorption of Alcohol
When someone consumes an alcoholic drink, the alcohol enters the bloodstream immediately. Usually, about 20% is incorporated into the bloodstream before the beverage even reaches the stomach. The remainder travels into the small intestine and stomach and is then absorbed into the bloodstream. The blood then brings the alcohol to the brain, which is what causes symptoms of intoxication.
The Body and How it Processes Alcohol
Additionally, the bloodstream also carries the alcohol to the liver. This is the organ primarily responsible for breaking down the compound with special enzymes. In a normal liver, this typically occurs at a substantial rate of about 20 milligrams per deciliter every hour. That means adults can usually process about one standard drink per hour. Still, it is vital to remember that many drinks contain more alcohol than the model used for that calculation.
Speed of Alcohol Effects
Since alcohol is absorbed so efficiently into the bloodstream, most people feel the results quite swiftly, usually 15 to 45 minutes after consuming liquor. Many factors influence this time, such as the quantity of food one ate beforehand or a high individual tolerance to alcohol.
Three main kinds of tests can decide if someone was drinking alcohol: Blood, urine, and breath. Blood and urine testing are the most sensitive. They can usually detect alcohol for around 24 to 48 hours after the last drink was consumed. More recent sensitive tests can see it for up to 80 hours, but these are no longer common. Police and officials are much more likely to use breath tests due to their simplicity. Breath tests can detect alcohol for no more than 24 hours after consumption. A hair test can identify alcohol consumption for about 90 days, though authorities seldom need this information.
Metabolization of Alcohol
When people drink more liquor than their bodies can process, they develop alcohol poisoning. Mild cases of alcohol poisoning cause vomiting, respiratory distress, and loss of consciousness. Even this stage is hazardous and can be fatal if a person chokes on their vomit. As alcohol poisoning progresses, it can cause brain damage, seizures, dangerously low blood pressure, and cardiac arrest.
Helping the Body Process Alcohol
Many long-term drinkers swear by specific home remedies to help their bodies process alcohol faster. Some treatments include taking a cold shower or drinking some coffee. Unfortunately, most of these suggestions are myths. Eating food before and also while consuming alcohol can help reduce the effects. Food can help decrease the amount of alcohol absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine lining. Drinking water can also help since dehydration causes the liver and other organs to work less efficiently. However, even with these strategies, the body can only process an ounce of alcohol an hour.
BAC-What is it?
A person’s blood alcohol concentration(BAC) is the amount of alcohol currently in their blood. The greater the concentration, the more intoxicated the person. Countless people start displaying signs of intoxication when their BAC reaches about 0.05%, although that depends on individual tolerance levels.
After You Stop Drinking
A common misconception is that someone’s BAC begins dropping as soon as they have their final drink. That may be true if the person has only a single drink per hour. Still, many people consume more than this, especially at social events. When a person consumes multiple drinks quickly, the BAC will continue to rise after drinking ceases. This is because the body is still absorbing alcohol faster than the liver can process it.
Factors That Can Affect Alcohol Metabolism
I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you to hear that everyone’s body processes alcohol differently. Men manage to break down the substance somewhat faster than women, and young people more quickly than older people. Pre-existing liver damage can also significantly weaken the body’s ability to process alcohol, as can malnutrition and dehydration. Medications, ethnicity, and fitness levels can also influence the rate of alcohol metabolization.
Safe Amount of Alcohol
There is no approved amount of alcohol deemed safe for everyone because so many factors are involved. Many specialists advise drinking no more than 14 standard units per week and no more than three to four units in a single 24 hour period. A “standard unit” is around 14 grams of pure alcohol, which constitutes 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine. Consuming excessive alcohol can lead to an increased chance of developing cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other critical conditions.