Learn how alcohol passes through the body and how that process impacts intoxication levels.
We know that drinking alcohol has effects on the body and needs to be broken down, but how does the process actually work? And how long does it take for the body to metabolize alcohol and sober up?
Understanding how the body processes alcohol, how long it takes to break down and the impacts of alcohol on the body will help alcohol servers and bartenders avoid overserving their customers and maintain a safe environment.
How is alcohol absorbed into the bloodstream?
Alcohol always passes through the body the same way:
- Immediately after taking a drink, 5% is absorbed into the bloodstream.
- The alcohol then travels to the stomach, where about 20% more is absorbed into the bloodstream.
- The remaining 75% of alcohol is absorbed through the lining of the stomach and small intestines, then dissolved into the bloodstream.
It takes about 20 to 40 minutes for most of the alcohol from one drink to dissolve into the bloodstream. It’s then carried to all parts of the body, including the brain.
How does the body break down alcohol?
Alcohol is broken down by the liver. The bloodstream carries the alcohol to the liver, where it is oxidized and changed to water, carbon dioxide and energy.
Until all of the alcohol is oxidized by the liver, the body will continue to feel the effects of the alcohol.
How long does it take the body to process alcohol?
It takes about one hour for the liver to process one standard drink of alcohol. Drinking more than one standard alcoholic drink in an hour means it will take the liver several hours to break down all of the alcohol.
While this process happens, the rest of the alcohol continues to circulate through the bloodstream. This prolongs the effects of drinking.
How does this affect intoxication levels?
The more alcohol in the bloodstream, the higher the body’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) level is. The higher the BAC, the more intoxicated a person will be. A higher BAC heightens the effects of alcohol.
Drinking more alcohol increases the body’s BAC, but the liver will continue to break down the alcohol at the same rate every time. This means that drinking more will prolong the effects of alcohol, and the only proven way of sobering up is to give the liver time to oxidize all of the alcohol in the bloodstream.
Serving alcohol is a fun and rewarding job that lets you connect with people, but ensuring that alcohol consumption is done in a safe way can be challenging. We can help. Learn more about the factors that can affect BAC, understand the different levels of intoxication and find tips for stopping service to an intoxicated customer.Userve’s Alcohol Server Training Programs give you all the tools you need to understand the effects of alcohol on the body, know the laws and regulations related to alcohol service, spot the signs of intoxication and ultimately maintain a safe environment.