How Does Alcohol Metabolise In The Blood?

Published by John Gillen | Last updated: 3rd April 2023

When an individual consumes alcohol, it is often expelled relatively quickly from the body via sweat and urine.

However, approximately 90% of alcohol consumed is absorbed into the bloodstream.

While many individuals who consume alcohol overlook what happens to alcohol upon consumption, it is crucial to understand how alcohol is digested and metabolised in the blood due to the side effects that often arise.

How does alcohol metabolise

To answer the question “how does alcohol metabolise in the blood?” we have provided a wealth of information below.

If you consume large quantities of alcohol and have become reliant on alcohol, we would encourage you to contact us as soon as possible to discuss the treatment we provide to individuals struggling with alcohol addictions.

In doing so, you can mitigate the risk of suffering from short and long-term side effects that arise when alcohol metabolises in the blood.


How Alcohol Is Absorbed Into The Bloodstream

Before answering the question “how does alcohol metabolise in the blood?” it may help to comprehend how alcohol passes into the blood.

Upon being consumed, alcohol enters the body and is transported to the stomach and digestive system.  Here, a small amount of alcohol passes through the stomach’s lining and into the bloodstream.  This process is known as diffusion.

As the diffusion process takes place, alcohol enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain.  This is essentially what causes individuals to feel tipsy and drunk.

Having reached the brain, alcohol then continues its journey to the liver to be metabolised.  However, any excess alcohol that is not metabolised in the blood via the stomach enters the small intestine.

As the small intestine has a larger surface area than the stomach, a larger proportion of alcohol enters the blood here.  Any alcohol not absorbed into the blood will exit the body via urine and an individual’s breath.


How Alcohol Is Processed In The Liver

As alcohol reaches the liver, it is converted into hydrogen and oxygen in a process called oxidation.  This is carried out in the liver to neutralise the build-up of alcohol in the blood and reduce the amount of alcohol that becomes metabolised in the blood.

However, the liver is only able to process 0.25 of an ounce of alcohol per hour.  Sadly, consuming over this amount of alcohol in a short period will see an individual’s Blood Alcohol Concentration rise.


Understanding Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)

Before determining how alcohol metabolises in the blood, it is essential to understand Blood Alcohol Concentration.  Put simply, Blood Alcohol Concentration refers to the amount of alcohol that is found in an individual’s bloodstream upon drinking alcohol.

While many individuals are aware of the side effects experienced when alcohol is consumed, they are unaware that the side effects experienced result from the body’s Blood Alcohol Concentration level.

Typically, the higher the amount of alcohol that is consumed, the higher an individual’s Blood Alcohol Concentration will be.  Although various factors dictate the impact alcohol has on an individual, according to the University of Notre Dame, when an individual has a Blood Alcohol Concentration over 0.06%, they begin showing intoxicating features such as impaired speech and balance.


Factors That Contribute To An Individual’s Blood Alcohol Concentration

It should be noted that upon consuming alcohol, your body’s BAC level will depend on factors such as your height, weight, sex, age and the amount of food in your stomach at the time of consuming alcohol.

Furthermore, the higher the amount of alcohol in a beverage, the greater the amount of alcohol that is absorbed into the bloodstream.

For example, if an individual drinks a bottle of wine which is 15% proof, their BAC will be higher than if they had consumed a bottle of wine which is only 9% proof.


The Side Effects Associated With An Increased Blood Alcohol Concentration

As and when alcohol metabolises in the blood, various short and long-term side effects of consuming alcohol arise.  For example, many individuals will experience hangovers and nausea in the short-term.  Although these alleviate relatively quickly, individuals are more prone to struggling with alcohol abuse and addictions when alcohol is consumed frequently.

Unfortunately, as alcohol metabolises in the blood when alcohol is abused, individuals become significantly at risk of struggling with long-term side effects such as liver disease, heart disease and cancer.

While treatment for the long-term side effects of an increased BAC is available, they often leave individuals struggling with the ramifications for the remainder of their life.


Alcohol’s Effects on Metabolism and Bloodstream

As touched on above, alcohol is absorbed through the stomach’s lining and the small intestine before reaching the liver upon being consumed.  Here alcohol is slowly metabolised into non-toxic molecules by the liver’s enzymes.  Although the liver can successfully metabolise alcohol, it takes approximately one hour for one unit of alcohol to be metabolised.  This equates to 0.015 BAC per hour.

However, when an individual’s BAC increases above 0.05, they will experience the unpleasant side effects associated with alcohol consumption.  As many people tend to consume large volumes of alcohol at once, the body’s BAC is frequently greater than 0.05.

Regrettably, as the liver cannot metabolise over 0.015 BAC in a short time frame, alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream.  Due to being unable to process all of the toxins administered as alcohol is consumed, alcohol remains in the body and bloodstream for a prolonged period of time. This causes various short and long-term side effects to arise and essentially sees alcohol metabolise in the blood.


Contact Cassiobury Court Today

If you frequently consume large quantities of alcohol and have sadly developed an addiction to alcohol, we can provide you with alcohol rehabilitation at Cassiobury Court.

Our rehabilitation treatment will enable you to withdraw from alcohol and mitigate the risk of symptoms arising due to alcohol metabolising in the blood.  Furthermore, treatment at our rehab will see you equipped with coping strategies that will help you avoid temptation and relapse in the future.

If you would like to find out more about our treatment for alcohol abuse and addictions, please contact us today by calling 01923 369 161.


John Gillen

John Gillen - Author Last updated: 3rd April 2023

John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John also co-authors the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction, which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.