As 4th of July and the summer approaches, many people who attend parties, barbecues, nightclubs and restaurants should keep in mind how much alcohol they consume and whether they might be above Arizona's legal limit of .08% when they decide to drive home. People often attempt to "space" their drinks or alternatively, stop drinking for a period of time before driving to avoid being stopped and arrested for DUI.
Metabolizing Alcohol by the Body
Once alcohol is consumed, it passes through the digestive system and is mainly absorbed into the blood stream through the tissue lining of a person's stomach and small intestine. After alcohol reaches the blood stream, it is carried throughout the body and ultimately reaches the brain. On average, a person will feel the effects of a drink within fifteen to forty-five minutes after it is consumed. However, many factors can affect the absorption of alcohol including:
- the presence of food in the stomach
- the type of drink consumed
- whether drinks are consumed close in time - "binge drinking"
- whether alcohol is mixed with soda, juice, etc.
Most experts agree that people are impaired to drive an automobile at an alcohol concentration as low as .04%. Significant driving impairment will occur at .07% to .08% and people who have minimal tolerance to alcohol will display signs of intoxication at around .10%. Signs of impairment might include:
- lower inhibitions
- decreased fine motor skills
- decreased large motor skills
- difficulty concentrating
- slurred speech
- impaired coordination.
Generally, three to four standard drinks within a one hour period will result in a person being above the legal limit to drive a vehicle.
Eliminating Alcohol from Your System
Alcohol is primarily broken down by the liver but a very small portion can be secreted through sweat, breath or urine. The general rule is that the body can eliminate one standard drink per hour from its system. A standard drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits such as vodka, gin or scotch. Factors which might effect the time intakes for alcohol to be eliminated from your body include:
- a persons age and weight
- a persons gender
- whether there is food consumed with the alcohol
- a persons specific metabolism
- the type of alcohol consumed
Alcohol is detectable for up to 6 hours in blood; about 12-24 hours in breath, urine, and saliva; and up to 90 days in hair.
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