Have you ever wondered why some people seem to “get drunk” faster than others? Or how some people can just “hold their liquor” better? The answer lies in understanding exactly what it means to metabolize alcohol. While this area of the law can be confusing, especially if you are facing a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, here is some general information to help you understand the concept of alcohol metabolism rate and how it relates to a DUI charge.
How Many Drinks Until I Reach the Legal Limit?
When we are discussing the “legal limit” we are actually talking about the amount of alcohol in a person’s system or blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In all U.S. states, the BAC limit is 0.08 percent or more at the time of driving as measured by a blood or breath test. In other words, you will be considered “per se” under the influence of alcohol if your BAC is at 0.08 percent or greater. Of course, this doesn’t refer to being under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs.
So, how many drinks does it take for a person to reach that limit? There isn’t a magic number, unfortunately. Generally speaking, alcohol is absorbed into the blood relatively quickly and metabolized more slowly. For example, an average person weighing 150 pounds can add 0.02 percent to their BAC per hour, while removing (metabolizing) 0.01 percent per hour.
The answer also depends on several factors, including:
- Your height and weight
- Your individual metabolism rate
- The amount of food consumed
Alcohol Burn Off Rate
Alcohol burns off at a rate of .016 BAC per hour, or about one average drink per hour. This rate is pretty standard regardless of your weight. What differs is how a person’s BAC rises. A smaller female will have her BAC rise more quickly and with less alcohol than a larger male. For a male, it may take five or more drinks in an hour to reach a BAC of 0.08 percent, where it may only take two or three drinks for a female.
Factors that Affect Absorption
Most experts agree on a number of factors that affect a person’s absorption rate. Here is a list of some factors to consider:
- Food: If you drink on an empty stomach, you may get drunk more quickly. Food helps slow down the absorption rate. Consider eating high protein foods before drinking to slow down the rate of absorption.
- Type of Alcohol Consumed: Not all drinks are created equally. Simply put, hard liquor drinks such as vodka or whiskey have a higher alcohol concentration than beer or wine. It is recommended that most people shouldn’t have more than one drink per hour.
- Gender: Alcohol affects women more quickly than men. Why? Because women are typically smaller than men. Also, women have about half as much of the enzymes used to metabolize alcohol than men do.
- Proportion of Body Fat to Muscle Mass: Blood alcohol concentration is intensified in people with more body fat. Fat tissue is extremely low in water content and can’t absorb alcohol and remains in the bloodstream until the liver can break it down. However, tissues that are higher in water content, such as muscle, do absorb alcohol. Hence BAC will usually be higher in the person with more body fat.
- How Quickly You Consume Alcohol: The faster you drink, the quicker your BAC will rise.
Get an Attorney to Evaluate Your DUI/DWI Case
Getting pulled over and arrested for a DUI can be a life-changing event. Whether this is your first or third DUI arrest, an experienced legal professional will help you get the best outcome possible. An attorney can challenge the breathalyzer test in the context of your alcohol metabolism rate or use other strategies in your defense. Learn more by contacting a DUI attorney near you.