Absorption primarily entails the passage of alcohol through the blood stream from where it is distributed throughout the tissues of the body via diffusion. Alcohol remains temporarily in the body tissue until elimination, which is the complete removal of the alcohol from the body. All of these processes depend highly upon and contribute to the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) or what it is commonly referred to as Blood Alcohol Level (BAL).
The Blood Alcohol Level is the difference in the rate at which alcohol is absorbed and the rate at which it is eliminated, in other words, the amount of alcohol in the body. On average, during normal social drinking, the BAL is usually at its highest within half an hour of complete consumption. Many factors determine your Blood Alcohol Level including your body weight, gender, age and your food intake before drinking.
The heavier a person is, the greater their water volume. When there is more water in one’s body, their Blood Alcohol Level (BAL) will tend to be lower for a given amount of alcohol consumption. This is mainly because the water dilutes the alcohol. In terms of gender, the fact that woman’s bodies tend to contain a lower concentration of water, and more fat cells, than a man’s body means that women generally have a higher BAL than men after consuming the same amount of alcohol, even if they are the same weight. This is mainly because the alcohol that gets into the blood stream, does not have much interference by water dilution but, instead, has a difficult time trying to penetrate the fat cells, hence alcohol remains in her system a lot longer.
Many people are unaware of the role that age plays when it comes to the Blood Alcohol Level. It has been scientifically proven that a single drink can raise the BAL of an older adult twenty percent (20%) more than a young adult.
Another major factor that influences the BAL is food consumption before drinking. Eating a meal before drinking will help slow alcohol absorption. The food in the stomach absorbs some of the alcohol and delays its effect. Therefore eating before drinking tends to cause your Blood Alcohol Level to be lower in comparison to what it would be on an empty stomach.
The elimination process entails two major procedures, excretion and metabolism. Most of the alcohol is eliminated via the metabolism process. This process is where most of the alcohol is burned via a procedure similar to that of the metabolism of food. Alcohol excretion on the other hand occurs mainly through the breath, where it exits the body in its exact form (as alcohol). Due to this phenomenon, the police are able to estimate the levels of alcohol consumed using a breathalyzer.
The rate of elimination of alcohol in ones system occurs at a constant rate for each particular individual, with the average persons’ metabolism rate being between thirteen and eighteen milligram per 100 milligrams of blood per hour.
Along with factors that affect the BAL, there are factors that govern the effects of alcohol, like Alcohol Tolerance and Bolus drinking. Alcohol tolerance is the ability of the body to adapt to higher and higher levels of alcohol over time. The adaptation of the body does not mean that your body’s behavioural skills will no longer be affected. The effects of alcohol may vary with different people; hence tolerance is not uniform among everyone. The best example of tolerance is the body’s ability to have motor coordination after having high blood alcohol concentration in the body.
Tolerance toward much of the effect of alcohol can be developed easily by the body. This causes some frequent drinkers to consume more alcohol over time order to try to achieve the same effects as they may have experienced with fewer drinks in the past. The more often you consume alcohol the greater your tolerance will become. Tolerance is mainly controlled by the liver. The liver begins to work more efficiently when it experiences a steady increase in consumption; hence your metabolism rate speeds up causing the perceived intoxication period to be shorter. To get your body to lose some of its tolerance to alcohol you must steadily decrease your alcohol intake.
Bolus drinking is the quick or rapid consumption of alcohol, forcing the Blood Alcohol Level to accelerate due to the quick entry of the alcohol into the blood causing the impairment to be obvious to the consumer. The consumer would notice a sudden decline in motor and reasoning skills. This can be a very dangerous practice.
A common misconception in the study of alcohol and other related fields is that alcohol impairment and intoxication are the same. With impairment, adverse physical signs are not necessarily seen. Intoxication on the other hand is an advanced form of impairment. Unlike Impairment, the effects of intoxication can be undoubtedly pointed out or noticed by an average person.
One of the most widely studied infractions involving alcohol is impaired driving. This is mainly because of the effect of alcohol on our cognitive abilities, which are fully utilised when driving. Driving requires that one is on the alert and well-coordinated.
A common misconception is that a low BAL cannot cause impairment. This is not true, actually a low Blood Alcohol Level can indeed cause impairment. It’s been proven that one can be impaired with as little as 100 milligrams of alcohol per one hundred milliliters of blood. Alcohol can affect several skills utilized when driving, such as vision which includes glare recovery, depth perception, and visual acuity; reaction time; and our cognitive functions, including concentrated attention, rate of information processing, judgement and decision-making.
We all know that drinking and driving is not a safe practice. You should always drink moderately, take precaution and know your limits. If you have been drinking and you need to get home, your best option is to call a cab or a family member. Better yet, plan ahead by electing a designated driver to drive you and your friends home safely. If it is too late for this advice and you have already been charged with a DUI offence, contact us immediately since there are several ways that DUI charges can be overturned.