How Does That Drink Affect Me?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Oct 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

Have you ever been in a situation where you're out to dinner with friends and you've had a few drinks and you're wondering if you should be driving home?  How long will it take to feel the effects of the drinks you've had?  Once the effects do kick in, how bad will they get, and how long will they last?

Like a DUI case, the science of alcohol absorption is a complex one, and takes into account multiple factors, from the food you've eaten, the kind of drinks you've had, the time over which you've consumed your drinks, weight, age, and sex.  All of these elements play a factor in how long it will take a particular drink to show up in your bloodstream, making its way to your brain and thereby affecting you.

Let's start before you actually consume your first drink.

The average human body produces approximately one shot of ethanol through its own internal processes of fermentation each day.  So without even taking a drink, you are already one shot up.  That alcohol will register on a breathalyzer or in a blood test.  It is not causing impairment to you necessarily, because your body exists with that amount of alcohol in its baseline state, but it is there.

But let's see what happens when you actually consume your first drink.

As the alcohol makes its way down your esophagus to your stomach, a very small percentage is absorbed into your bloodstream through the linings of your mouth and throat.  Only about 1-2% gets absorbed in this way, but it will cause a slight rise in your blood alcohol content (BAC - the level of alcohol that shows up in your blood).

Once the alcohol reaches your stomach it will begin being directly absorbed into your bloodstream.  Approximately 20% of the alcohol from your drink is processed by your stomach and the remaining 75-80% will travel through the small and large intestines and be absorbed there.

The alcohol that enters your bloodstream begins to affect your brain and brain functions almost immediately...imperceptibly at first, and then, as I'm sure you're aware, with greater impact.

Food in the stomach, along with water and other non-alcoholic drinks can slow its absorption, but won't stop it.  Fatty foods and those high in protein will slow absorption the most.

Once the alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream its effects are immediate.  For the average moderate drinker (i.e. not a habitual alcoholic) at a .03 BAC you will begin to feel effects such as an intensification of mood, as your BAC rises to .06 your emotions tend to be exaggerated and your inhibitions begin impairment.  Once you reach .10 BAC, perception, vision, balance, self control and speech are affected.  At .14-.15 vision acuity continues to decrease as does balance, perception and speech, along with an impairment of motor control.    At a .20 BAC most people require assistance standing and walking, and medical attention can become necessary.  By the time a person reaches a .30 BAC loss of consciousness is expected along with potential requirement for hospitalization.

Though the absorption of alcohol INTO your bloodstream is dependent on many factors, the metabolism of the alcohol OUT OF your system, or its 'elimination' is fairly standard and does not tend to vary from person to person, absent some medical condition.The typical person eliminates between .015 and.016 BAC per hour.  So if your BAC rises to a level of .08 (the legal limit), you will still have alcohol in your system until the passing of the fifth hour.  In fact, studies have shown that the typical 'remedies' for intoxication, i.e. coffee, cold showers, etc. have little to no affect on the elimination of alcohol from your system.

While the science of alcohol absorption and elimination is complex, the art of controlling your drinking is not.

Experts recommend timing your drinks (1 standard drink per hour for women, two for men), drinking plenty of water or other non-alcoholic beverages between alcoholic drinks (though not carbonated beverages as those tend to increase alcohol absorption), eating foods high in protein and fat BEFORE your first drink, and time your last drink so that it will have plenty of time to leave your system before heading home.

Remember, impaired or not, an officer can always stop you and can always put you through the nightmare of a DUI investigation.  Oftentimes, he will have made his decision to arrest you long before you step out of the vehicle.  Drink responsibly and keep in mind the only sure way to avoid a DUI after consuming alcoholic beverages is to use a designated driver, taxi or other service.

If you have been arrested for DUI in Henry County, or anywhere in Georgia and need immediate legal help, call our office at 404-816-4440.  We are the top-rated DUI Defense Firm in Georgia.  Read our AVVO Reviews and call a Henry County DUI Lawyer now.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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