Alcohol In The Body

Alcohol is a general term denoting a family of organic chemicals with common properties. Members of this family include ethanol, methanol, isopropanol, and others. This introduction discusses the physical, chemical, and physiological aspects of the most commonly ingested of these ethanol. Alcohol (ethanol) is a clear, volatile liquid that burns (oxidizes) easily. It has a slight, characteristic odor and is very soluble in water. Alcohol is an organic compound composed of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen; its chemical formula is C2H5OH. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant and it is the central nervous system which is the bodily system that is most severely affected by alcohol (see chart on right). The degree to which the central nervous system function is impaired is directly proportional to the concentration of alcohol in the blood. When ingested, alcohol passes from the stomach into the small intestine, where it is rapidly absorbed into the blood and distributed throughout the body. Because it is distributed so quickly and thoroughly the alcohol can affect the central nervous system even in small concentrations. In low concentrations, alcohol reduces inhibitions. As blood alcohol concentration increases, a person’s response to stimuli decreases markedly, speech becomes slurred, and he or she becomes unsteady and has trouble walking. With very high concentrations – greater than 0.35 grams/100 milliliters of blood (equivalent to 0.35 grams/210 liters of breath ) – a person can become comatose and die. The American Medical Association has defined the blood alcohol concentration level of impairment for all people to be 0.04 grams/100 milliliters of blood (equivalent to .04 grams/210 liters of breath).

On the following pages is a generally accepted guide to the affects of alcohol.

Absorption and Elimination
This includes absorption, distribution and elimination of alcohol in the body.

Factors that Effect Blood Alcohol Content
Many things can have an effect on BAC, they include body weight and body type, rate of consumption, alcohol content, food, medication, fatigue, tolerance and gender.

Stages of Alcohol Intoxication

The following is a generally accepted guide to the affects of alcohol.

0.01 – 0.05 (Subclinical)
Behavior nearly normal by ordinary observation

0.03 – 0.12 (Euphoria)
Mild euphoria, sociability, talkativeness, increased self-confidence; decreased inhibitions, diminution of attention, judgment and control, beginning of sensory-motor impairment, loss of efficiency in finer performance tests

0.09 – 0.25 (Excitement)
Emotional instability, loss of critical judgment, impairment of perception, memory and comprehension, decreased sensatory response, increased reaction time, reduced visual acuity, peripheral vision and glare recovery, sensory-motor incoordination, impaired balance, drowsiness

0.18 – 0.30 (Confusion)
Disorientation, mental confusion; dizziness, exaggerated emotional states, disturbances of vision and of perception of color, form, motion and dimensions, increased pain threshold, increased muscular incoordination, staggering gait, slurred speech, apathy, lethargy

0.25 – 0.40 (Stupor)
General inertia, approaching loss of motor functions, markedly decreased response to stimuli, marked muscular incoordination, inability to stand or walk, vomiting, incontinence, impaired consciousness, sleep or stupor

0.35 – 0.50 (Coma)
Complete unconsciousness, depressed or abolished reflexes, subnormal body temperature, incontinence