What are the effects of alcohol?
All alcohol you consume is absorbed into your blood stream.
You feel the effects of alcohol quickly because it is rapidly absorbed from the stomach, small intestine and large intestine into your blood stream.
The rate of absorption of alcohol can vary, depending on a number of factors. For example, whether you have food in your stomach is a factor in how quickly alcohol is absorbed, especially food high in protein or fat. This is because food slows down the transition of alcohol from your stomach into the small intestine and its subsequent absorption into the blood.
So when you drink alcohol on an empty stomach your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the amount of alcohol in your blood stream, increases more rapidly and you feel the effects of alcohol quicker.
- Alcohol is rapidly absorbed via the stomach, small intestine and large intestine. Vaporised alcohol can also be absorbed through the lungs into the blood stream.
- Your BAC is measured in mg of alcohol per 100mL of blood.
- Your blood alcohol will continue to rise after you have consumed your last drink. You generally won’t reach your maximum BAC until 45-90 minutes after consuming it.
- Alcohol is broken down (or metabolised) in the body more slowly than it is absorbed. Consequently, the more alcohol is drunk, and the faster it is drunk, the higher the BAC will become.
- In an adult, the average rate of metabolism of alcohol is about one (1) standard drink per hour. However, there is significant variation in this rate between individuals.
- About 10% of the alcohol you absorb is not metabolised. Most of this unchanged alcohol is excreted in your urine, but a proportion is excreted via your lungs in breath and via your skin as sweat.
- Alcohol is detected in your bloodstream, including the brain, within about five minutes of taking a drink.
- Alcohol penetrates your brain and central nervous system.
- Alcohol belongs to the class of drugs called depressants. These do not necessarily make you feel depressed, but slow down the central nervous system including the transmission of messages to and from the brain.
- When pregnant women drink alcohol, it will cross the placental barrier into the fetal blood. For this reason, mixing pregnancy and alcohol is not recommended.
- Drinking alcohol and breastfeeding carries health risks as alcohol will enter the breast milk. The alcohol concentration in breast milk is about 10% higher than the BAC in the mother.