Alcohol Risks

How does alcohol effect our body?

Many of us enjoy having a drink, whether in the company of friends, colleagues, or alone, and the occasion varies from a social gathering, to a meal at home, or just relaxing on one’s own. While drinking is socially acceptable, not many of us can pass the correct judgement on whether we have had too much to drink. This is where impairment, both physical and mental can affect your judgement.

Knowing alcohol’s effects on our body is of great importance. Spirits, wine and beer differ in their alcoholic content. Spirits are at the top end with 40% and over alcohol; wines come next at around 11% to 13%. Beer is the least concentrated at around 4-5% alcohol content.

When we drink, alcohol goes into our blood, and depending on the level and volume of alcohol consumed, our bodies will be impaired both mentally and physically.

Principles of Testing

Alcohol requires no digestion and gets absorbed from the mouth, stomach and intenstine into the blood stream. When the blood goes through the lungs, the alcohol permeates from the blood to air in the deep lung region. The alveoli of the lungs are small tissue sacs surrounded by a fine network of capillary blood vessels, the thin membrane of the alveoli allows alcohol to enter the air. As alcohol in the alveoli air is exhaled, the concentration of alcohol can be detected by a breathalyser.

A Breath Alcohol Concentration (BrAC) is as accurate as the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). The breath alcohol to blood alcohol ratio of 2100:1 is used for converting BrAC to BAC. This means that 2100mg of deep lung air will contain the same amount of alcohol as 1ml of blood.

Breath Alcohol Testing Technologies

A number of technologies are used to test breath sample for alcohol:

  • Gas Chromatography
  • Fuel Cell
  • Semiconductor sensors
  • Infra Red Spectroscopy
  • Wet Chemistry

Alcohol Absorption and Metabolism

When alcohol is first consumed, it passes down the esophagus through the stomach and into the small intestine. Only a small amount of alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream through the mucous membrane, the vast majority of alcohol enters the bloodstream through the walls of the small intestine. Alcohol is highly water soluble and the bloodstream rapidly transports the ethanol throughout the body where it is absorbed into the body tissues in proportion to their water content.

Metabolism is the body’s process of converting ingested substances to other compounds. Metabolism involves a number of processes, one of which is referred to as oxidation. Through oxidation in the liver, alcohol is detoxified and removed from the blood through breath, in the sweat and in urine, preventing the alcohol from accumulating and destroying cells and organs. Until all the alcohol consumed has been metabolised, it is distributed throughout the body, affecting the brain and other tissues.

The rate of alcohol metabolism depends, in part, on the amount of metabolising enzymes in the liver, which varies among individuals. In general, after the consumption of one standard drink, the amount of alcohol in the drinker’s blood peaks within 30 to 45 minutes. A standard drink is defined as 330ml of 4% beer, a 100ml glass of wine, or a 30ml glass of straight spirits. Alcohol is metabolized more slowly than it is absorbed. Since the metabolism of alcohol is slow, consumption needs to be controlled to prevent accumulation in the body and intoxication.

An Explanation of Blood Alcohol Concentrations (BAC)

The legal definition of whether someone is intoxicated is the measurement of alcohol concentration in his or her blood.

Blood alcohol concentrations are determined by testing the level of alcohol present in a person’s blood. Alcohol is testable because it is not processed like other food products. When alcohol is ingested it is absorbed into the bloodstream. This absorption is what causes the alcoholic effect we call intoxication.

The blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is expressed as a percentage. Here’s an example:

A BAC of 0.05% means that out of 10,000 blood component parts, five parts are alcohol.
Three types of tests are commonly used in determining blood alcohol concentrations: breath test, blood test, and urine test.