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Alcohol: What You Need to Know

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Understanding Drink Equivalencies

A standard drink consists of 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine, or 1-1/4 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits. Regardless of the type, each of these contains approximately 1/2 ounce of pure alcohol. It’s important to note that not all beers, wines, and spirits follow this standard.

A standard drink is 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine or 1-1/4 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits

The Journey of Alcohol through the Body

Around five percent of the consumed alcohol leaves the body through urine, sweat glands, and breathing. However, the majority of alcohol needs to be broken down by the liver to eliminate it from the system. The liver metabolizes alcohol at a consistent rate of approximately one drink per hour. If the blood contains excessive alcohol, the liver cannot speed up the detoxification process. Thus, the unmetabolized alcohol continues to circulate in the bloodstream, resulting in intoxication.

No quick fixes exist to sober up; the liver requires sufficient time to metabolize alcohol. Taking a cold shower, breathing fresh air, exercising, or drinking black coffee won’t speed up the process. The only way to remove alcohol from the body is through time, with an average of about one hour needed per standard drink.

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Alcohol does not require digestion and is primarily absorbed in the stomach. Roughly 20 percent is absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach, while the remaining 80 percent is absorbed in the small intestine, where absorption occurs more rapidly. The presence of food in the stomach, particularly proteins and fatty foods, triggers the closing of the pyloric valve that separates the stomach from the small intestine. As a result, intoxication slows down when food is present.

Understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) measures the amount of alcohol present in the body. A BAC of .08 percent is equivalent to 1/8 of a drop of alcohol in 1000 drops of blood. Even small amounts of alcohol can have a significant impact on the body. For instance, a BAC of .30 percent can cause a person to lapse into a coma, while a BAC of .40 percent can even result in death.

It is difficult to determine a person’s BAC without special equipment like a Breathalyzer. However, as an alcohol server, it is crucial to rely on observation and judgment of a customer’s appearance and behavior to decide whether to serve them alcoholic beverages.

Effects of Alcohol on the Body

Alcohol acts as a depressant drug. Despite the initial burst of energy it may provide, alcohol impairs judgment, inhibitions, and reaction times.

Additionally, alcohol depletes the body’s fluids, often causing a person to feel thirsty. As a result, individuals may continue drinking more than they should.

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Consuming alcohol causes the small blood vessels on the skin’s surface to dilate, resulting in a false sensation of warmth while the body is actually losing heat.

Normally, the liver regulates the body’s blood sugar levels. However, when alcohol is present, the liver prioritizes alcohol metabolism over other functions. This disruption in blood sugar levels can lead to various effects like hunger, nausea, and hangovers.

Factors Influencing Intoxication

Alcohol affects individuals differently, and the effects may even vary for the same person on different occasions. Several factors contribute to how quickly a person becomes intoxicated:

  • Gender: Alcohol affects men and women differently. Women may experience stronger and longer-lasting effects due to higher estrogen levels, body fat, and lower levels of body water compared to men. On the other hand, men generally possess more enzymes that break down alcohol in the stomach before absorption into the bloodstream.

  • Mood: Alcohol intensifies a person’s current mood. Someone who is already feeling down may become significantly more depressed when drinking. Fatigue or stress can also expedite intoxication compared to being well-rested and relaxed. Physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion exacerbates alcohol’s impairment.

  • Food in the stomach: The presence of food in the stomach slows down the rate of intoxication. When digestion occurs, the pyloric valve at the bottom of the stomach closes, preventing alcohol from entering the small intestine, where most absorption takes place. Foods that are greasy, high in protein, or fatty have the most significant impact on slowing down intoxication. Examples include meatballs, chicken wings, cheese, pizza, dips, fried foods, nachos, and beef tacos.

  • Amount of alcohol consumed: The more alcohol a person consumes, the more it accumulates in their blood, increasing intoxication. Keep in mind that the liver can only process approximately one drink per hour.

  • Speed of consumption: Individuals who drink rapidly or gulp their drinks become intoxicated more quickly than those who sip or drink slowly. Rapid drinking leads to a larger amount of alcohol being ingested within the same time frame.

  • Tolerance to alcohol: Tolerance refers to the body’s ability to adapt to alcohol’s effects. It varies from person to person, with some naturally having higher tolerance levels and others developing tolerance through habitual drinking. Individuals with high tolerance may appear sober to others while being significantly impaired.

  • Physical condition: People who are out of shape become intoxicated more quickly than those who are physically fit. While muscle absorbs alcohol, fat does not absorb alcohol, blood, or water.

  • Medication/Drugs: Mixing alcohol with medications or drugs can cause severe physical, behavioral, and health complications. Combining alcohol with drugs enhances the effects of both substances and can lead to dangerous interactions. Selling alcohol to someone who has taken any drug is not recommended.

  • Carbonation: Carbonated alcoholic drinks enhance the rate of alcohol absorption. The pressure inside the stomach and small intestine forces alcohol to be absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream. Sugary and juice-based alcoholic beverages also expedite absorption.

  • Altitude: Alcoholic drinks consumed at high altitudes have nearly double the effect during the initial days until the body adjusts to the elevation.

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Remember, if you need further advice or information about alcohol, Ratingperson is here to help you.

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