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When does alcohol peak?

The basics of metabolism

When you drink, alcohol passes from the stomach into the small intestine. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood and distributed throughout the body. Because of its quick distribution the alcohol can affect the central nervous system (CNS) even in small concentrations.

So, when do alcohol levels reach a peak in your body? What influences this peak and its duration? If you are looking to the answers of these questions and want learn more about alcohol use and abuse – check out this article. When if you have more questions at the end, we invite you to post them in the comments section below and we’ll try to reply personally and promptly.

What’s in alcohol?

The chemical formula of alcohol is C2H5OH. Alcohol, also known as ethanol or ethyl alcohol is a clear and colorless liquid. Ethyl alcohol is a volatile liquid prepared by fermentation of certain carbohydrates. It acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, a diuretic, and a disinfectant. It has a bactericidal activity, meaning it kills bacteria.

Alcohol is widely used as a solvent and preservative in medicine preparations. It is also the primary ingredient in all alcoholic beverages.

Alcohol peak levels

Generally, alcohol peak times vary from 10 to 90 minutes after you have started drinking. Absorption is the primary determinant of the alcohol peak and can be influenced by:

  • blood type
  • body temperature
  • certain spices in the food
  • metabolism
  • presence of certain medications in the body

However, peak blood alcohol concentrations vary depending on many other factors, such as:

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1. Age – Young drinkers usually weigh less and are smaller size, which makes their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) peak faster. Older people, on the other hand usually have more body fat and less body water content, which influence the processing of alcohol in the body and makes older people more susceptible to its effects.

2. Concentration of alcohol in drinks – Beer contains 2-6% alcohol, wine contains 8-20% alcohol, champagne contains 8-14% alcohol, and distilled spirits (vodka, rum and wisky) contain from 40-95% alcohol. Drinks with a greater alcohol concentration have faster absorption, and will reach peak blood concentration levels faster.

3. Gender – Alcohol reaches a peak blood concentration level in women at a much faster rate than men. This is the result of several bilogical predispositions observed in females, including:

  • smaller weight and size
  • more body fat and less water in body
  • lower levels of the enzyme that breaks down alcohol (alcohol dehydrogenase or ADH)
  • menstrual period and ovulation

4. Whether you have eaten or not – Food slows down the absorption of alcohol and the onset of its effects, so a peak BAC will be achieved more slowly. On the contrary, if you haven’t eaten for some time before you start drinking, alcohol will be more easily and quickly absorbed.

5. Size and weight – People who are smaller in size and have less body weight have less tissue to absorb alcohol. This makes them feel a peak in effects more quickly.

6. Tolerance to alcohol – Tolerance is the process of having to consume more drinks to feel the same effects as you used to get from 2-3 alcoholic drinks. Basically, the more you drink, the more drinks you need in order to feel the effects of alcohol.

7. Type of drink – Cocktails mixtures of several alcoholic drinks, juices and carbonated beverages tend to speed up the process of alcohol absorption and alcohol peak time.

NOTE: Alcohol peak levels are also connected to the drinking setting. Social drinking settings shorten the time that is needed for alcohol to reach a peak.

Dangers of long term alcohol use

It is an already known fact that large alcohol consumption and long term alcohol drinking can cause severe effect on the human body. These are some of the many dangers of long term alcohol use:

  • alcohol poisoning
  • amnesia
  • apathy
  • brain damage
  • broken relationships
  • cancer
  • dangers during driving in traffic
  • disorientation
  • emotional disbalance resulted with domestic violence
  • gastritis
  • heart-related diseases
  • high blood pressure
  • increased disatisfaction within the family circle
  • incising level of anger
  • liver disease
  • lower levels of productivity
  • nerve damage
  • sexual problems
  • stroke
  • ulcers

How do I know if I’m addicted to alcohol?

Sometimes people who have an alcohol problem tend to deny their addiction. In many cases people who are alcohol-dependent are not even aware that they are abusing alcohol. If you answer YES to most of the listed questions, it is very possible that you have a problem. But help is out there!

  • Are you in denial about the amount of alcohol you drink?
  • Are you losing control over the amount of alcohol you drink?
  • Are you unable to stop drinking alcohol once you start?
  • Have you developed alcohol tolerance?
  • Do you catch yourself drinking in dangerous situations (before driving, opreating machinery)?
  • Do you continue to drink after experiencing alcohol withdrawal?
  • Do you drink to feel better?
  • Do you experiencing constant mood changes such as anger, stress or sadness?
  • Do you have regular “blackouts”?

When does alcohol peak questions

Did you get your questions answered? We hope so.

Feel free to comment and ask more questions in the designated section below. We’ll try to answer all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly, or if we don’t know the answers, we’ll refer you to someone who does.

Reference sources: NIST: Ethanol
NCBI: Ethanol
NHTSA: Alcohol Effects on People
NCBI: Absorption and Peak Blood Alcohol Concentration After Drinking Beer, Wine, or Spirits

Photo credit: Public Domain Pictures

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