The Weight Factor

How quickly alcohol is absorbed by your body and how it affects you depends on the amount of alcohol you consume, but other factors matter as well. How much food you have in your stomach affects how quickly the alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream. More food slows down the rate of absorption. And alcohol can race through your body if

Most of her friends were drinking at the graduation party, but Katie had said no. Now she felt as if she were in the middle of some sort of weird science experiment. Many of the kids around her were holding cans of beer. They were all drinking the same alcohol—some more, some less. But you could clearly tell who had been drinking—and not just from the way their breath smelled. The kids who had been drinking were talking louder and standing a lot closer to everybody else. They were laughing more, and their faces were red.

But it was strange that while the drinkers were the same in some ways, the beer seemed to be affecting them differently in other ways. For instance, Marcie seemed to be drunk already, even though she couldn't have had more than two beers. In fact, she was barely able to stand up. Tina seemed to be less inhibited. She was dancing around a group of boys and putting her arms around first one, then the other. Kevin was sitting quietly in a corner, drinking and looking depressed. And Carl, who had been drinking more than anyone else, didn't seem to be drunk at all. How was it possible that the same beer could affect her friends so differently?

What Katie may not have known is that alcohol affects different people in different ways, according to a variety of factors like the rate of alcohol absorption by the body, the drinker's weight, and the drinker's tolerance to alcohol's effects.

you take a drink on an empty stomach.

Your size and weight matter, too. Two 12-ounce cans of beer contain the same amount of alcohol, but one can of beer will give a higher blood alcohol level to someone who weighs 100 pounds than to someone who weighs 175 pounds. Why? It comes down to water—water that can dilute the alcohol. The smaller the body, the less water it contains and the less water is available to dilute the alcohol.

The amount of alcohol in your blood is usually called the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or blood alcohol level (BAL). It measures the amount of alcohol (in milligrams, or mg) in 100 volumes (written in milliliters, or ml) of blood. BAC is often described in percentages and then abbreviated further, changing the milligrams to grams. So when a person's level of intoxication (or drunkenness) is described, you might see that a person with a BAC of 100 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood would be described as having a BAC of 0.10 percent.

At what point does it become difficult for your body to function? It depends on how much alcohol you consume, whether or not you had food in your stomach, how much you weigh, and also how quickly you drink the alcohol. The faster the alcohol races through your body, the more likely your body is to find it difficult to function normally.

Your body begins to discard the alcohol shortly after it is absorbed into the bloodstream—through urine, sweat, and even your breath. You can often smell alcohol on the breath of someone who has been drinking. This is why law enforcement officials often use Breathalyzers to measure whether or not a person has been drinking. A Breathalyzer measures the amount of alcohol in your exhaled breath. The amount you exhale is in proportion to the BAC in your body. So a Breathalyzer measures not simply how much you have had to drink but the more important factor—the blood alcohol level in your body.

A person who has consumed an alcoholic beverage exhales alcohol with each breath. The amount of alcohol exhaled is in proportion to the BAC, which is why Breathalyzers are able to measure an individual's level of intoxication.

Booze Basher

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