The human body breaks down alcohol in 3 various stages. Each stage takes a fair amount of time while the body reacts to the ingested substance. In most people, the average drink (12 oz. beer, 4 oz. wine, 1 oz. shot) takes an hour to metabolize fully. As such, it’s important you know what your body must go through in order to break down these types of substances.
When alcohol is ingested, the fluids hit the drinker’s stomach on their way to the small intestine. This is the point where the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream. Here, small blood vessels will absorb the alcohol before transporting it to the liver. Once alcohol reaches the liver, our metabolism begins converting and breaking it down with enzymes into non-toxic acid. In total, roughly 80-90% of ingested alcohol is broken down by our body’s metabolism.
Another ways our bodies remove alcohol is through the process of excretion. Alcohol is eliminated largely through urinary passages once it has passed through the kidneys. Additional excretion methods include sweat, saliva, feces and milk.
Our lungs exhale roughly 5% of all ingested alcohol. This factor makes it easy for breathalyzer tests to determine the body’s current alcohol content. Alcohol content found in breath comes from air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli.
BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) is the most accurate way of determining the current amount of alcohol in an individual’s system. The measurement is made by the percentage of alcohol currently in the individual’s blood. Though blood tests have been found to be more accurate, breathalyzer tests are more common due to their ease of use. Urine tests may also help in determining current system alcohol levels. If an individual chooses to drink more alcohol than their body can metabolize in a short period of time, the BAC is be increased.
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