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  » Alcoholism and treatment  »  Alcohol's Effects Upon the Body
A number of factors will determine how individuals react differently, given the same amount of alcohol, or on different occasions.

SPEED OF DRINKING
The more rapidly the beverage is ingested, the higher the peak blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The liver metabolizes about ˝ ounce of alcohol per hour.

PRESENCE OF FOOD IN THE STOMACH
Eating while drinking slows down the absorption rate. When alcoholic beverages are taken with a substantial meal, peak BAC may be reduced by as much as 50%.

OTHER CHEMICALS IN THE BEVERAGE
The greater the amount of nonalcoholic chemicals in the beverage, the more slowly the alcohol is absorbed (e.g., vodka is absorbed more rapidly than beer or wine).

BODY WEIGHT
The larger person has more blood and requires greater amounts of alcohol to reach a given BAC.

DRINKING HISTORY/TOLERANCE
Increasing amounts of alcohol are needed to result in the physical and behavioral reactions formerly produced at lesser concentrations, if there is a long history of drinking.

ENVIRONMENT
There may be differences in alcohol's effects, depending upon where one drinks (e.g., local bar, with family, hostile environment, etc.).

THE DRINKER'S EXPECTATIONS
Many people become intoxicated on less alcohol merely because they have that expectation before they begin drinking.

GENERAL STATE OF EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH
Many people seem more susceptible to the effects of alcohol when they are extremely fatigued, have recently been ill, or are under emotional stress and strain. The usual amount of alcohol may result in uncomfortable effects.

SEX DIFFERENCES
Given the same amount of alcohol, and proportional to
body weight, females will generally have a higher BAC than their male counterparts, due to less body fluids to dilute the alcohol and also due to more body fat.

Females are generally more affected by alcohol just prior to menstruation.

Females taking birth control pills or medications containing estrogen may remain intoxicated longer than those who do not, due to the liver's function of metabolizing both.

OTHER DRUGS
Prescription, over-the-counter, illicit, and unrecognized drugs all have potential reactions with alcohol. One should be aware of the additive and synergistic effects when these drugs are mixed with alcohol.