When alcohol is consumed, about 20 percent of it is absorbed through the lining of the mouth, esophagus and stomach. The remaining alcohol travels to the small intestine, where most of it is absorbed into the bloodstream. Food in the stomach slows the time it takes for alcohol to enter the small intestine, but if the stomach is empty it can reach the small intestine within a few minutes. Other factors like lack of sleep and activity level can also affect the rate of alcohol absorption.
The Function of the Liver
Alcohol, which is highly soluble in water, passes through cell walls and tissues easily. About 90 percent of the alcohol consumed is metabolized by the liver, and since the liver can only metabolize .25 ounce of alcohol per hour, the remaining alcohol continues to circulate through the body. As it circulates, it eventually reaches the brain where the effects of the alcohol begin to take place.
Alcohol and the Brain
Normally, the brain is protected from drugs and foreign substances by a filter system which only allows water to pass through. Because the molecular structure of alcohol is similar to water, it is able to pass through the barrier or filter. Since the brain controls critical body functions like perception, speech and judgment, alcohol's effect on the brain can be very dangerous. Depending on the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream, the longevity of the effects vary. As more and more alcohol is consumed, the effects intensify exponentially.
How Alcohol Affects the Frontal Lobe
Once alcohol reaches the frontal lobe, loss of reason and inhibitions occur. This results in the careless, reckless behavior that intoxicated people exhibit. In a social setting this is particularly dangerous because of the loss of self-restraint. Intoxicated people often find themselves doing and saying things they normally would not. Having sex with a stranger, stripping in public and driving while drunk are a few examples of how alcohol affects the frontal lobe. After the effects of alcohol wear off, many people are very surprised to learn what they did while intoxicated. Unfortunately, the consequences of their actions remain.
Alcohol and Health
People who drink only occasionally are usually able to adjust to the stress alcohol puts on their body. However, continuous consumption of alcohol increases the risk of liver diseases including hepatitis and cirrhosis, and also coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. When combined with the physical and emotional dangers present when a person is intoxicated, drinking alcohol should only be done with great care and forethought.
- Photo Credit Gregor Buir
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