Alcohol is a depressant. When it enters the body, it causes the nervous system to slow down and can lead to impaired motor skills, reaction time, and coordination. When alcohol is ingested in high quantities, it can lead to coma or death.
Alcohol affects different people in different ways. For this reason, some have a reputation as being able to hold their liquor, while others are known as lightweights. If they drink a small amount of alcohol, they quickly become intoxicated. If the person continues drinking on a regular basis, their tolerance level increases, allowing them to consume higher amounts of alcohol before feeling the effects. The reason for this variation is the way the human body processes alcohol.
How is Alcohol Absorbed Into the Body?
Once ingested, alcohol enters the stomach where 20 percent of the alcohol is absorbed, and then continues to the small intestine where the remaining 80 percent is absorbed. From there it is distributed through blood vessels into the bloodstream.
It then travels to the liver to be metabolized by liver enzymes. On average, the human liver can process approximately one ounce of liquor every hour. When a person drinks more than this amount, the excess alcohol begins to accumulate in their blood and in their body until the liver has a chance to metabolize it. This is one of the reasons why a person who takes multiple shots of alcohol in a short period of time ends up with a high blood alcohol concentration and feels drunk for long periods of time.
Factors That Determine the Way Alcohol Affects People
- Gender: Gender plays a major role in the way alcohol affects people. Because of physiological differences between men and women, women feel the effects of alcohol more than men, even if the man and the woman are of the same height and weight. One reason for this difference is that women have less water in their body than men. A man’s body will dilute alcohol faster than a woman’s body can. Additionally, women’s bodies produce less dehydrogenase, an enzyme that the liver uses to break down alcohol. Hormonal differences between men and women and the use of medications that have estrogen affect the way women metabolize alcohol.
- Age: As people age, their bodies gain fat and lose muscle. Since fat cannot absorb alcohol, older individuals have a higher level of alcohol in their blood system until their liver can metabolize it. This means that as people age, they become intoxicated easier and for longer periods of time.
- Food consumption: Food consumption affects the way the body metabolizes alcohol. For alcohol to be absorbed, it must leave the stomach, travel to the intestines, and then be absorbed into the blood. Eating food that is high in fat will slow down the absorption rate of alcohol into the bloodstream compared to drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to alcohol abuse and addiction. If you are battling with alcohol abuse, know that is not a battle you need to go through alone. There are many inpatient treatment facilities that are available that are designed to provide personalized care and help you on the road to recovery.