Alcohol is metabolized by the body through the liver, which Brown University notes takes roughly an hour for every ounce consumed. How quickly and how much alcohol someone’s body absorbs depends on several factors, such as:
- Muscle-to-fat ratio
- Stress levels
- Food consumption
In general, the larger someone is, the less alcohol affects them compared to someone who is smaller in size. In addition, men metabolize alcohol faster than women do. The McDonald Center’s Student Well-Being portal notes this well by comparing a male weighing 185 pounds and a female weighing 130 pounds, noting the female’s blood alcohol level after drinking two alcoholic beverages in one hour is more than two times greater than the male’s. However, this isn’t a clear-cut rule. Some individuals may be larger in size, but their fat-to-muscle ration might cause them to metabolize alcohol more slowly.
Stress can also cause an indirect effect on ADH3 – alcohol dehydrogenase – and this can impair how well alcohol is metabolized in both the stomach and liver. With regards to the stomach, how much food is sitting in someone’s belly plays a key role too. Regardless of weight or muscle mass, food will slow the metabolizing of alcohol.
Timeline of Events
From the point of ingestion, alcohol makes its way to the stomach and small intestines. It is from these locations that it is absorbed into the bloodstream. This is why it’s better not to drink on an empty stomach, since there is no food to slow absorption. Most of the time, absorption occurs more quickly with high alcohol content substances than lower ones.
Alcohol is excreted through the urine and completely out of the body around 24 hours from the last drink, but most of the time, it won’t be picked up on a test after 10-12 hours, per Mental Health Daily. The biggest variable involved with how fast alcohol leaves the body is, as noted above, the rate of metabolism. This is affected by a myriad of factors.
How much someone drinks matters too. For instance, someone who has a blood alcohol content of 0.016 percent will take 10 hours on average to completely eliminate all of it, per DrinkFox. This calculation is based on the standard that it takes an hour to metabolize each ounce of alcohol, per the program Moderation Management. It’s a general rule that should be applied to most every situation though, because most people are obviously unaware of their body composition and how they metabolize alcohol individually. In addition, the calculation is based on the consumption of an ounce of 100-proof liquor. Beverages with lower proofs equate differently.
The Final Straw
Once a place of dependence is reached or substance abuse has become so severe that it is inferring with an individual’s daily life or causing them to act out of character, it’s time to intervene. Sometimes, this has to be done managed professionally. Sometimes, treatment comes by way of a court order, and sometimes, loved ones are just waiting for someone to reach out and offer them the help they so desperately need.
Treating alcoholism is a complex issue. While research has come a long way in understanding the disorder, there is still a lot that is unknown. The highest quality treatment centers will manage the care of their clients individually. One client might present with issues of alcohol abuse that stemmed from binge drinking in college to cope with the stress of maintaining their GPA. Another client might enter treatment unaware of what led them to habitual drinking at all and find out while they’re in rehab that they suffer from bipolar disorder or depression. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism notes that 30-40 percent of people who struggle with alcohol dependence also battle depression.
While addiction doesn’t form overnight, it does tend to start taking shape before the person realizes it. Part of the problem with dependence is that it’s often already formed by the time you notice you can’t easily quit. In fact, it’s practically age-old wisdom to suggest anyone suffering from a hangover should just have a drink to cure their headache and lethargy. Sure, it often works, but it comes at the cost of training the body to want to medicate itself with more alcohol when it doesn’t feel well.
To break these habits and learn how to live on a daily basis without alcohol, detox alone isn’t going to cut it. Extended treatment is crucial for a person to succeed at staying clean after rehab. The Los Angeles Times reports that 90 days is the proven minimum length of treatment to produce the greatest chance of successful results.